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When Should I Go to Sleep if I'm Struggling with Sleeplessness?

A good night’s sleep is vital for the body to recover and repair itself, as well as for the mind to process information. It’s also needed not only for optimal brain function, but for keeping us alert throughout the day. Ideally, we’d all be getting a peaceful night’s rest.

If, however, you suffer from occasional sleeplessness, you’ll know what a detrimental effect a lack of sleep can have on day-to-day life.

It’s possible to make some minor adjustments to your lifestyle which may lessen sleep disturbance. Let’s take a look at how altering your bedtime can help with some sleep issues…

Work out how much sleep you need

There’s no set ideal sleeping duration for humans. Mostly because there are a number of factors at play which determine an individual’s perfect amount of nightly sleep. Among them include the depth and quality of that sleep and the age of the person.

The Center for Disease Control (the CDC) have carried out studies and made some general recommendations for how much sleep we generally require.1 It’s broken down by age brackets:

  • 0 – 3 months: 14 – 17 hours
  • 4 – 12 months: 12 – 16 hours
  • 1 – 2 years: 11 – 14 hours
  • 3 – 5 years: 10 – 13 hours
  • 6 – 12 years: 9 – 12 hours
  • 13 – 18 years: 8 – 10 hours
  • 18 – 64 years: 7 – 9 hours
  • 65 years+: 7 – 8 hours

If we assume that the majority of people reading this are 18-64, based on the CDC’s advice, the average person needs between seven and nine hours a night. Although, it’s not unusual for a healthy adult to need just six or up to ten to function at their best.

Think back to some good nights’ sleep that you’ve had. How many hours’ worth are you able to enjoy while feeling awake and fresh the next day?

So we can create an example here, let’s say that it’s eight hours.

Set a time for waking up the next day

It’s likely that you’ll already have a fairly rigid window of time each morning in which you have to get up within. Perhaps work, children, relatives, pets or some other responsibility requires it. Great, for this exercise you need a very specific wake-up time in order to work out when to go to try and go to sleep.

Are you free to wake up whenever you desire? Then set yourself a new time to wake up each morning. It needs to be the same time every single day, so pick wisely.

To keep to a routine, try to avoid deviating from this wake-up time too much at weekends. You can sleep an extra hour, perhaps. Any longer and it’s likely any routine you get into will be disturbed.

To continue with our example, we’ll say that you plan to set your alarm for 8am each morning.

Calculate an ideal time to fall asleep

Now it’s time for a nice easy bit of maths. Take your wake-up time and minus the amount of hours you’ve decided that you require each night.

So… 8am – 8 hours = Midnight.

In our example you would aim to fall asleep at 12am.

Work out when to go to bed

You now have your ideal ‘to be asleep by’ time. Of course, if you have issues with sleeplessness it’s rather unlikely that you’ll be able to regularly fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow.

It’s important that you don’t spend time in bed awake watching television or reading a device before bed. This is quite likely to interfere with your falling asleep.2 For the best night’s rest, you want to be slipping into bed and immediately trying to fall asleep.

Let’s say that – on average – it takes you half an hour to fall asleep. Using our example, you would be getting under the duvet for as close to 11.30pm as you can. Does it take you a little longer to doze off? Just adjust your sleep time accordingly.

Everyone is different

It’s important to understand that there’s not one standard ‘correct’ amount of sleep needed per night.3

We’re all unique and need to listen to our bodies. If we then act upon what we’re being told, we can benefit. This applies in many areas of health and it’s just as true with sleep.

Let’s say you only really need seven hours of sleep a night. If you blindly aim for nine, you’re trying to force extra sleep upon yourself. That will likely end up in fitful and disturbed sleep that leaves you frustrated and exhausted.4 Recognise that seven hours is the target, arrange your nocturnal schedule around that figure and you should see improved results.

Similarly, if you need nine hours’ worth of sleep to be at your best, don’t assume you can shave a few hours off to make more of the day. You’ll pay for it in the long run. Accept what your system is telling you and try to adapt to it.

Keep to your routine

For this change to your sleeping schedule to have a noticeably positive impact, it’s important to stick to the times you set for yourself as much as possible.5

Try not to be tempted to lie in. Even after a restless night, it’s important to get up at your prescribed time. You might want to try and catch up on the sleep you missed in the morning, but avoid that temptation if you can. All that will likely do is extend the issue into the following night.

When it comes to lifestyle adjustments like this, there is no silver bullet. There’s no one behavioural cure for sleeplessness. Follow these tips and set a rigid sleeping schedule, however, and you should see an improvement in how you sleep.

Lloyds Pharmacy