People should aim for 7–9 hours of sleep each night. However, the best times to go to sleep and wake up will vary among individuals.

Many different factors, including a person’s age, work schedule, and sleep patterns, affect the ideal sleep time.

However, in general, it is best to aim for consistency in sleep hours and to wake up at a set time every day, as this may help regulate the sleep cycle.

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A person’s age can determine the amount of sleep that they require.

In general, the body and brain slow down as it gets dark and start to wake up as the sun rises.

There is some evidence to suggest that early bedtimes are better for people. One study involving 1,197 Japanese workers found that those who went to bed later were more likely to have depressive symptoms. However, sleep duration may have contributed to these symptoms, as the participants who went to bed later often got less sleep.

Another study found that people who stated a preference for going to sleep later also had higher levels of repetitive negative thinking, such as dwelling on problems or bad experiences. Importantly, this also affects how much sleep a person gets.

It may be best to understand how much sleep the average person needs and then use that number to set a bedtime.

Resources for healthy sleep

To discover more evidence-based information and resources on the science of healthy sleep, visit our dedicated hub.

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One way for a person to settle into a good sleep schedule is to make their waking time consistent. By setting an alarm for a specific time each day, the body will naturally adjust itself to this timing.

The human body and brain naturally respond to the cycles of the environment, such as the sun rising and setting. These cycles help regulate sleep and wakefulness patterns in humans. Due to this, an ideal situation would be to wake up as the sun rises.

However, both sleep quality and the amount of sleep that a person gets are equally important. Establishing a consistent routine could help improve sleep quality.

Sleep requirements vary by age, and they will affect when a person should go to sleep and wake up.

The following table shows how many hours of sleep a person needs each day, according to their age:

AgeHours of sleep
0–3 months14–17
4 months to 2 years11–16
3–5 years10–13
6–13 years9–12
14–17 years8–10
18–64 years7–9
65 years and over7–8

The sleep cycle is a natural internal system in humans. It is a combination of external conditions, such as light, personal behaviors, and lifestyle choices, and internal conditions, such as brain wave patterns and genetics.

A normal sleep cycle occurs in two distinct states: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. The body moves between these states a few times a night.

The body cycles through these stages roughly every 90 minutes. Over more cycles, the NREM stages get lighter, and the REM stages get longer.

Ideally, the body will pass through four to five of these cycles each night. Waking up at the end of the cycle, when sleep is lightest, may be best to help the person wake feeling more rested and ready to start the day.

An alarm going off when a person is in one of the deeper stages of sleep may lead to grogginess or difficulty waking up.

Again, these stages vary from person to person, meaning that no single timing for sleep is right for everyone. Paying attention to how they feel in the morning and noting how many hours of sleep they got may help a person identify their sleep cycle and determine how much sleep they need.

Although the average person’s sleep cycle can vary a bit, some issues can signify the need to see a doctor.

Anyone struggling to fall or stay asleep throughout the night may wish to see a doctor for a diagnosis. An underlying issue may be causing the insomnia.

In other cases, a person may get enough sleep but still wake up each morning feeling unrested. This symptom could indicate other health issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

A doctor can recommend suitable treatments and help the person work toward regulating their sleep schedule.

The best time to go to sleep and wake up will vary from person to person. In general, though, people should aim to fall asleep a few hours after dark and wake up within the first hours of sunlight in the morning, where possible.

General guidelines indicate that the average adult needs about 7–9 hours of sleep each night. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day can help support a healthy sleep pattern.

Anyone who is concerned about their sleep patterns or feels as though they do not get enough rest may benefit from talking to a doctor, who can check for underlying sleep disorders.