You go to sleep when you're tired, right? That seems like the best way to go about it. However, as The Wall Street Journal points out, sometimes forbidding yourself from doing that is the best way to get a good night's sleep.
The actual amount of sleep you need is always up for a little debate, but there are a few ways to figure out what works best for you. Of course, the amount of sleep you need is just half the equation. You need to figure out the best time to go to bed and stick to it. Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, clinical professor Dr Rafael Pelayo explains:
There is an old saying that "one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight," but Dr. Pelayo says this statement is totally false. "It's a mistake to go to bed too early," he says. "Trying to go to sleep when your body wants to be awake is like swimming upstream."
Instead, a good strategy, says Dr. Pelayo, is to lock in the wake-up time and restrict your time in bed to your usual amount of sleep (which may not be the oft-cited eight hours). "Restricting your opportunity to sleep may actually make you go to bed later but the biologic drive to sleep will help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper," he says.
By his equation, "your ideal bedtime should be about 10 to 15 minutes before you want to fall asleep," he says. "So if you want to be up at 7:30 a.m. and want to sleep 7.5 hours, you should get into bed about 11:45 p.m."
It might seem like finding the perfect sleep routine is a crazed maths equation with lots of variables, but the key takeaway here is to hold yourself to it once you settle into something. Even if that means laying on the couch yawning for an hour.
What's the Best Time to Go To Bed [The Wall Street Journal]