Sleep recommendations are hardly one-size-fits-all, and your ideal sleep routine will be unique to you. With that being said, according to mbg Collective member and sleep expert Ellen Vora, M.D., there is an ideal bedtime window that many of us should be aiming for. Here’s what to know.
Syncing with the sun.
It’s long been known that our bodies’ circadian rhythms sync with the sunrise and sunset. And according to Vora, it’s often helpful to time your bedtime to these natural lighting cues.
“There’s actually a period in the evening where we’re perfectly tired,” she explained in a recent TikTok. “It’s our sweet spot where it’s easy to fall asleep, and it’s easy to sleep deeply through the night.”
That sweet spot? Three hours after sunset.
“If we push past that point, we get what’s called ‘overtired,'” she says, adding that this causes the body to catch a second wind. “Your body says, ‘There must be some good reason we’re staying awake past the point of being tired,’ so we release our stress hormone cortisol.”
Cortisol causes us to feel wired and tired at the same time and makes it hard to both fall asleep and stay asleep, she says.
What does this mean for seasonal sleep?
Now you might be thinking, does this mean you need to change your sleep schedule throughout the year as the sun sets earlier or later? A TikTok user had the same question, to which Vora responded, “This has to be adjusted at certain times of the year and certain latitudes.”
For example, in the peak of summertime here in New York, three hours after sunset is just before midnight. So if you do stick with this three-hour rule in summer, you’d want to stay asleep until at least 7 a.m. to ensure that you’re getting the recommended seven hours of sleep.
But according to research, many of us do tend to get a bit less sleep in the summer, which could speak to the effect of longer days and shorter nights.
The bottom line.
If you want to fall asleep quickly, you might want to try Vora’s suggestion of syncing with the sun. In the case of late (or even extremely early) sunsets, you can adjust as necessary.
At the end of the day, though, finding your ideal bedtime comes down to listening to your body’s cues and doing the best you can, given your schedule. If the three-hour trick works for you, more power to you—but if it’s not plausible due to family, work, or other circumstances, you can still focus on the myriad other strategies for getting high-quality, deep sleep night after night.