Have you ever had someone tell you that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after? While that might not be exactly true, many of us could benefit from getting to bed earlier.
But it can be tough to wind down your day and hit the hay. You might get pulled into one more episode of Only Murders in the Building. You may need every minute of your day, and you’re checking homework and signing permission slips when you should be in your PJs. Or that late hour could be the only time you ever have to yourself.
The benefits of a good night’s sleep
You know that restorative sleep is good for you. Reminding yourself of the benefits of solid sleep can help motivate you to move your bedtime earlier.
“Sleeping early helps make sure you get adequate sleep throughout the night,” said Kaji. Your body knows it’s bedtime, even if you try to override its signals.
Your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) starts to signal bedtime after the sun goes down. That’s when your body starts to produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
“Sleep is vital to our well-being. Getting enough sleep can help improve your physical, emotional and mental health,” said Kaji.
Sleeping well helps you:
- Improve your overall health.
- Increase your energy.
- Keep your mind sharp.
When should you go to bed?
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. So start with the time you need to wake up and count back. Factor in 15 to 20 minutes after bedtime for falling asleep. If you have a work or school schedule that’s typical for most adults, you should be in bed between 10 and 11 p.m.
If your current bedtime is a lot later than that, don’t try to shift it earlier all at once. You’re likely to just lay in bed awake. Instead, go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual. In a few days, after you’ve adjusted to that bedtime, go to bed an additional 15 to 30 minutes earlier. Keep shifting the time back every few days until you hit the bedtime that gives you enough sleep.
“Keep your bedtime consistent throughout the week,” said Kaji. Staying up late and sleeping late on the weekends won’t help you build the habit of going to bed earlier.
Create a cozy bedtime routine
If you’ve ever tried to get a child to go to sleep, you know the importance of a bedtime ritual. Adults need those signals that it’s time to wind down, too.
Put away your phone and turn off the TV in the hour or so before bedtime. Read a book, take a bath, listen to calming music, write in a journal or practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
Setting an alarm for when it’s time to get ready for bed can be helpful. That way, you’ll have time to brush your teeth, wash your face and enjoy your bedtime ritual before it gets too late.
Be sure your bedroom supports good sleep
When you’re moving your bedtime earlier, you want to make sure your bedroom is set up to encourage you to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.
- Ideally, you want a comfortable mattress. If your mattress isn’t comfortable and you can’t afford to replace it, consider buying a new mattress topper.
- Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Pull down the window shades and close the curtains. If noise from outside the bedroom is a problem, you may want to run a fan to mask it.
- Keep electronics out of your bedroom. Consider getting an alarm clock instead of using your phone to wake you up.
Take steps throughout the day to sleep better at night
Setting the stage for good sleep happens throughout the day. Here are ways you can sleep better with your earlier bedtime.
- Stay away from caffeine later in the day: Some experts recommend avoiding caffeine for 10 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine before bed: Of course, it’s best to steer clear of tobacco products entirely.
- Don’t have a heavy meal or spicy food before bedtime: They can disrupt your sleep.
- Exercise during the day: Regular physical activity can help you sleep better. But avoid intense workouts close to bedtime. They can stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Be careful with naps: Short, 20- to 30-minute power naps in the afternoon may be OK. “Longer naps, or naps too close to bedtime, can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep,” said Kaji.
- Be patient: You’ve probably had some bad sleep habits and late bedtimes for a while. Don’t expect to adjust to changes overnight. It takes time to create new patterns.
Talk to an expert
Often, you can take steps on your own to shift to an earlier bedtime and get a good night’s sleep. But sometimes, you need professional help. If you’re struggling, you could have an underlying sleep disorder like insomnia, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome or a mental health problem like anxiety.
Make good sleep a priority and get help if you need it. “Inadequate sleep can not only result in daytime sleepiness but also affect your mental and physical health. It can worsen your mood, cause irritability and even lead to depression,” said Kaji.
A health care provider or sleep medicine expert can evaluate your sleep and come up with a plan that can help you.
The bottom line
Getting a good night’s sleep is a key part of good health. For a lot of people, that means bedtime needs to be earlier. It can help to follow a bedtime routine and make your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Then you can gradually shift your bedtime earlier.
If you’re having trouble getting the sleep you need, talk to your health care provider or reach out to a sleep medicine specialist at Banner Health.