How to Set and Keep the Right Bedtime

Sleep is an essential function for the body that helps with everything from memory consolidation to warding off diseases. That means it is absolutely imperative to take sleep hygiene seriously. A key part of that is establishing — and actually sticking to — a realistic bedtime. Yes, even on weekends.

So how do you determine what is the right hour for you to wind down and drift off each night? And, more importantly, how do you actually stick to your bedtime? Here are four tips from a sleep expert about the different ways you can set (and actually keep!) the bedtime that works for you.

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. 

Setting your bedtime starts with figuring out what time you need to wake up the following morning. “So much of what I found in researching best practices for teen sleep applies to adults as well. Adults should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night,” says Lisa L. Lewis, author of the forthcoming book “The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive.”

So, if you need to get up by 7 a.m., try to settle into bed between 10 p.m. and midnight. Of course, everyone is different when it comes to sleep needs, so you may have to adjust the amount of time you spend snoozing for your specific body and mind. It might be helpful to use a sleep tracker as you try and figure out the best time for you. 

Curate the perfect relaxation routine. 

Of course, most people can’t just fall asleep on command. Becoming relaxed and ready for rest takes time and more effort than most people realize. This is why Lewis recommends creating a nightly “wind-down” routine. “When it comes to setting a bedtime and sticking to it, having a wind-down routine is a best practice and can really help. Whether it’s reading a book or taking a warm bath, find what works for you to help you transition into a ‘sleep’ frame of mind.”

Figuring out what interferes with your sleep is helpful so you can avoid those triggers. Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. “Setting the stage for a good night’s sleep starts well before you turn out the lights,” says Lewis. “One example is [consuming] caffeine: If you’re drinking coffee or caffeinated energy drinks late in the day to stay alert, you may be inadvertently sabotaging that night’s sleep.”

Finally, and probably the most important, staying consistent with your habits will help make getting quality sleep easier. “Remember to aim for sleep consistency: going to bed and getting up at around the same time every day. Staying up super late on the weekends and then sleeping in makes it that much harder to get back on track when Monday rolls around!” says Lewis.

Being consistent is often the hardest part, so try to give yourself a reason to get into bed at the same time every night — whether that means saving your daily crossword puzzle for bedtime or not letting yourself light your favorite candle until you’re tucked into bed.

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