Why a Set Bedtime and Wakeup Time Are So Important

You may have heard that you should go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Read on to find out why that is and tips for managing when set times don’t work for your schedule.
The Importance of Set Bedtime and Wakeup Times

We all know about the importance of getting enough sleep. But aside from getting your recommended seven to nine hours of shut eye each night, the consistency of your sleep matters too. Just like children need bedtime routines, adults can benefit from maintaining consistent sleep routines as well, which includes going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Both total sleep time and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule are necessary to ensure the overall quality of your sleep.

How Set Bedtime and Wakeup Times Impact Sleep

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal biological clock that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed or waking up at inconsistent times can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm, leading to metabolic disturbances, including weight gain. On the other hand, having a set bedtime and wakeup time, in addition to getting enough total sleep, can have a positive impact on your overall health. The benefits include improvements to your mood, a reduction in stress levels, higher energy levels, and a greater ability to function during the day.

In one study, researchers tracked the sleep schedules of 1,978 adults between the ages of 45 to 84 years old to assess the impact of sleep regularity, duration of sleep, and preferred sleep timing on various measures of health. The results showed that the more irregular an individual’s sleep patterns were, the higher their risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Individuals with irregular sleep patterns also had higher perceived levels of stress and depression.

This study highlights the importance of keeping bedtimes and wakeup times as consistent as possible for overall health. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s important to assess your sleep patterns overall. Ideally, you want to be hitting the pillow around the same time each night and sleeping for approximately the same amount of time. Staying up late one evening or enjoying a well-deserved sleep in on the weekend isn’t cause for concern. But if you have a different sleep schedule every night, taking steps to create a more regular bedtime and wakeup time can have many positive health benefits.

Tips for Managing Irregular Sleep Schedules

Sometimes our schedules are such that we can't go to sleep and wake at the same time each day. For example, individuals who do shift work, and parents with a new baby at home, will understandably find it challenging to maintain a consistent sleep pattern. However, there are several tips to help manage when faced with an irregular schedule:

Designate a Sleep Time for Yourself. If you’re not able to sleep “typical” hours during the night, decide what schedule does work for you, and stick to that designated sleep time as much as possible. Ideally you can ask those you live with to respect those sleeping hours, and to avoid disturbing you unless necessary.

Limit Light and Noise Exposure. This is particularly important if you are sleeping during the daytime, when natural light and outside sounds can disturb your sleep. In this case, you may want to install room darkening blinds or wear an eye mask to block out any light that can make it more difficult to fall asleep. To minimize sounds, try a white noise machine or app, and turn off your phone to avoid the pings from a text or email. If you have a baby sleeping in another room, a monitor can help ensure you hear them, even if you’ve drifted off to sleep yourself.

Try a Split Nap Schedule. Rather than getting seven to nine hours of sleep at once, you can divide this time up via a nap or two during the day and a shorter sleep at night. This works particularly well for new parents, who may have heard the advice to “nap when the baby sleeps”. This is critical to avoid sleep deprivation. Don’t give in to the temptation to fold the laundry or clear a sink full of dishes if your baby falls asleep. Use the time to get some sleep yourself, particularly in the first few months after your newborn arrives.

Getting quality sleep is important for overall good health. The key is to ensure you get enough total sleep, in addition to being as consistent as possible with your bedtime and wakeup times. Remember, it’s not about achieving perfection in your sleeping patterns, but about finding and sticking to a routine that works best for you.