This will be a short chapter, as this knowledge is simple and commonly known.

It’s good to have a schedule. Go to bed at a fixed time, wake up at a fixed time. Even if you feel sleepy, don’t ruin the schedule. Even if you feel like you can keep working for a few more hours at night, don’t ruin the schedule.

Preferably, you wake up naturally. Otherwise, wake up right before your alarm clock goes off. Waking up because of your alarm, shutting it off, and falling asleep again … is not great.

If you want to change the schedule, do so in tiny steps. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier for a week. Next week, go to bed another 15 minutes earlier. Continue this pattern until you’ve shifted your schedule.

Large shifts are hard to maintain. You might pull it off once or twice, but then you’re just too tired or demotivated to do it again. So change your sleep schedule in small steps, over a period of weeks if not months.

Does the actual time matter?

Yes and no. We can sleep to any schedule, as proven by the many people working night-shifts and sleeping during the day, or students sleeping until it’s 2 in the afternoon.

But in general, the best time to go to bed is 10 pm. Studies have shown that this matches our biological clock best. Both in terms of sleep and in terms of regeneration processes becoming active.

  • During the summer, this might be a bit later. (It might still be light outside at this time.)
  • During the winter, this might be a bit earlier.

The main take-away (with most health-related issues) is to follow our nature. Wake up with the sun, go to bed with the sun. Sleep as much as you need. Allow a bit of natural noise, light, scent, temperature. Fighting our nature is exactly that: fighting.

And you don’t want to fight. You want to do the opposite: sleep.

How much sleep do I need?

The amount of sleep lowers as you age. In general,

  • Newborns (0-2 months): 12 – 18 hours
  • Infants (3-11 months): 14 – 15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): 12 – 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 11 – 13 hours
  • School-age children (5-10 years): 10 – 11 hours
  • Teens (10-17) years: 8 – 9.5 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours

In the past, 6 hours was given as a minimum or guideline for adults, sometimes even teens. This isn’t correct. You need more than that, regularly.

Similarly, there’s this idea of “making up for lost sleep”. That is also a myth. If you slept terribly one night, you can make it up by sleeping more the next night.

But after that? It doesn’t work anymore. Lost sleep is just lost sleep. It’s not like our brain counts the hours below 7, adds them, and will neatly recover them all at some later point in time. It can only do so much in one night’s sleep. It cannot repair what you destroyed over 5 nights.

You need good sleep every night. You’re allowed one night as an exception. But more than that, and you are actively destroying your health in a way that can’t be recovered.

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