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Does It Matter What Time You Sleep? Yes, With One Caveat

The time you sleep matters. Aim to sleep at times that allow you to get enough sleep, stay in sync with your body clock, and on a regular schedule.
Published
2021-12-06
Updated
2023-09-06
19 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
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Does It Matter What Time You Sleep? Yes, Here’s Why 

  • It matters what time you sleep. Sleeping out of sync with your body clock can lower your energy and increase your odds of health conditions. 
  • The best time to sleep is different for everyone. Make sure your sleep times give you enough time to get enough sleep and are regular throughout the week. If you’re very sleep deprived, don’t worry about the perfect time to sleep, and focus on getting more of it when you can. 
  • The RISE app can tell you the best time for you to go to sleep and wake up.

With many things in life, timing is everything — from the right moment to broach a promotion with your boss to the exact date you pop the question to your significant other. Sleep is no different. 

The time you sleep can make a difference to your energy levels, productivity, and mental and physical health. But the right time will be different for everyone. 

Below, we’ll dive into the best time to sleep, how long to sleep for, and whether daytime vs nighttime sleep is best. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can take the guesswork out of sleep times and tell you the best time to sleep based on your own biology.

What Does a Sleep Doctor Think?

Here’s Rise Science sleep advisor and medical reviewer, Dr. Chester Wu's advice.

“It does matter what time you sleep. Sleeping at the right time for you can help you stay in sync with your body clock, which can boost your energy and mental and physical health, and help you get more sleep overall. To stay in sync, try to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day, even on your days off.”

Does It Matter What Time You Sleep?

Yes, it matters what time you sleep. Even if you get enough sleep, sleeping at the wrong times can cause you to get out of sync with your circadian rhythm. This can lead to low energy, trouble sleeping, impaired mental performance, and mental and physical health issues. 

Your circadian rhythm is your internal clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, when certain hormones are made, and when your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day. 

You can get out of sync with this biological clock if you: 

  • Sleep at irregular times throughout the week 
  • Work night shifts and sleep during the day 
  • Sleep at the wrong time for your chronotype (like a night owl forcing themselves to wake up early) 

Being out of sync is not good news. Research shows it can up your odds of health problems like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and mental health issues like depression.

A 2021 study found long-term night shift workers have higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and waist circumference than day shift workers. But you don’t need to be working night shifts long term to mess up your circadian rhythm. Research shows just four nights of night shift work is enough to have a negative impact. 

And you don’t need to be sleeping fully at odds with your circadian rhythm to increase your risk of health problems. A 2023 study found that irregular sleep patterns are linked to harmful gut bacteria — and this can happen when your sleep times shift by just 90 minutes. That’s worrying considering 87% of us go to sleep at least two hours later on weekends.

Beyond your health, being out of sync with your circadian rhythm can cause low energy, trouble sleeping, and impaired cognition (read: struggling to focus at work or school). 

Sleeping at regular times can also help you get enough sleep, which can lead to more energy, better focus, and improved health. 

In short, it matters what time you sleep. Ideally, you want to sleep when your body is biologically set up to sleep (when it’s dark at night) and sleep at consistent times to keep your circadian rhythm in check.

RISE can predict the timing of your circadian rhythm each day and show you when your body naturally wants to go to sleep and wake up. For the best energy, mental performance, and health, do your best to sync up with these times. 

Find these times don’t match your life? You can reset your circadian rhythm and shift it earlier or later. 

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peak and dip times
The RISE app can tell you when your body wants to sleep and wake up.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen here

Does It Matter What Time You Sleep if You Get Enough Sleep?

Yes, it matters what time you sleep, even if you get enough sleep overall. Sleep duration is important, but regularity and timing of sleep are also important. Sleeping on a regular schedule can help you get more energy and lower your risk of health conditions. And sleeping and waking up earlier may be better for you, too. 

Here’s what we know. 

One study found those who got enough sleep on a regular schedule felt more alert compared to those who got enough sleep, but not on a regular sleep schedule. 

Our own data shows another benefit of a regular sleep schedule. We found RISE users with regular sleep times have lower sleep debt than those with irregular sleep times. 

Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. With lower sleep debt, you’ll have more energy and be protecting yourself from the mental and physical health issues that a lack of sleep can cause. 

Sleeping at roughly the same times can help you get unbroken sleep, too. And unbroken sleep can be more restorative and even boost your mood. One study found sleep interruptions are more detrimental to your mood than getting the same shortened amount of sleep without interruptions. 

A regular sleep schedule can also help you stay in sync with your circadian rhythm. And this can lower your risk of health issues like high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. 

There’s nothing wrong with being a night owl, especially if your work and lifestyle make it possible to stay in sync with your circadian rhythm and get enough sleep. But going to sleep and waking up earlier may have some benefits.  

A 2019 study looked at night owls who shifted their sleep-wake times about two hours earlier, without sacrificing sleep duration (this part is key). This shift to the earlier sleep schedule was linked to improvements in self-reported depression and stress and better mental and physical performance during the mornings. 

More recent research has similar findings. A 2023 study, which was co-authored by one of our sleep advisors Jamie Zeitzer (who is also the Co-Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences at Stanford University), found that going to sleep early is linked to a decreased risk of mental and physical health disorders — and the benefit is there even for night owls. 

It’s not clear why earlier sleep-wake times have this effect, but it may be because sleeping earlier is linked to healthier lifestyle choices and getting more natural light, which helps regulate your body clock. It may also be that those who sleep later often don’t get enough sleep. 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out if you’ve got any sleep debt.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep debt here

How Many Hours of Sleep Should You Get?

The number of hours of sleep you should get depends on your sleep need. This is the scientific name for the amount of sleep you need each night. It’s determined by genetics, just like height and eye color, and it’s different for everyone. 

For example, we looked at the sleep needs of 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and older and found it ranged from a measly five hours to a whopping 11 hours 30 minutes. 

how much sleep do you need
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need.

RISE can tell you how many hours of sleep you should be getting each night. The app uses your phone use behavior over the past year and sleep science algorithms to work out your individual sleep need. 

If you’re wondering if it matters what length of time you sleep, the answer is yes. Not getting enough sleep leads to sleep debt. And sleep debt can lead to low energy, trouble concentrating, poor mood, anxiety, depression, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease…you get the idea. Getting enough sleep matters.  

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep need here

What’s the Best Time to Go to Sleep?

The best time to go to sleep will depend on: 

  • Your sleep need 
  • Your chronotype
  • Your lifestyle 

There’s no one scientifically best time to go to sleep, it’ll be different for everyone. 

First, you want to aim to meet your sleep need each night. If you need to be up at a certain time each morning, your bedtime needs to give you enough time in bed to get enough sleep. 

Expert tip: Add 30 minutes to an hour on to your sleep need and spend this amount of time in bed. This should give you enough time to fall asleep, wake up a few times in the night (which is normal, by the way), and still get enough shut-eye. So if you need eight hours of sleep, try to spend eight and half hours to nine hours in bed to hit this number. 

Next, your chronotype. If possible, go to sleep at a time that matches your chronotype. That means you don’t necessarily have to force yourself to sleep early if you’re a night owl. 

Finally, your lifestyle. While it’s best to go to sleep when your body naturally wants you to, we know that’s not always possible. You may work late shifts, have young kids who disrupt your bedtime, or need to get up extra early for work (and therefore need to go to sleep earlier than you’d like). 

Take all this into account and aim to find a bedtime that gives you enough time to get enough sleep for you and one you can stick to consistently throughout the week. 

RISE can work out the best time to go to sleep for you biologically. The app predicts your Melatonin Window each evening. This is the roughly one-hour window when your body’s rate of melatonin production (the sleep hormone) is at its highest. 

You should have an easier time falling asleep during your Melatonin Window, so this can be the best time to go to sleep for you.  

RISE can also give you a bedtime with its smart schedule feature. Tell the app when you want to (or need to) wake up and you’ll get a bedtime based on your sleep need and whether you need to catch up on any sleep. 

RISE app screenshot showing you the best time to go to sleep
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to sleep.

We’ve covered more on the best time to sleep and wake up here. 

Heads-up: While it’s best to go to sleep at the same time each night, if you’ve got a lot of sleep debt, you can get some extra sleep by heading to bed a little earlier. We recommend keeping your sleep debt below five hours to feel your best. 

What’s the Best Time to Wake Up?

The best time to wake up will depend on: 

  • Your sleep need 
  • Your chronotype 
  • Your lifestyle 

Again, there’s no one scientifically best time to wake up, it’ll be different for everyone. 

You want the time you wake up to give you enough time in bed to meet your sleep need, to match your chronotype (i.e. morning people will get up earlier than night owls), and to fit with your lifestyle (you may need to be up at a certain time for work or to get the kids to school). 

You also want to take into account sleep inertia, or that groggy feeling you get when you wake up. Ideally, give yourself 90 minutes before you need to be “on” for the day. 

The best time to wake up is also a time you can stick to consistently. That means resisting the snooze button, even on weekends. 

If you do sleep in, try to keep this to an hour or so. Sleeping in can help you pay back sleep debt, but it can also cause you to get out of sync with your circadian rhythm, which can cause trouble sleeping the next day, low energy, and an increased risk of health issues if it’s a regular occurrence. 

RISE can tell you when your body naturally wants to wake up. If possible, aim to get up at this time each day. You can reset your sleep schedule if this time doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

If you use RISE as your alarm clock, the app can tell you, right as you’re setting your alarm, whether your chosen wake-up time will add to your sleep debt. If it does, try waking up at a later time to get more sleep. 

RISE app screenshot of Smart Alarm
The RISE app can tell you if your wake-up time will add to your sleep debt.

We’ve covered more on the best time to wake up here.

What’s the Best Sleep Schedule?

There’s no one scientifically proven best sleep schedule for everyone. 

The best sleep schedule for you is one that: 

  • Gives you enough time to meet your unique sleep need
  • Is in sync with your circadian rhythm and chronotype 
  • Suits your lifestyle commitments 
  • Is consistent throughout the week 

We’ve covered more on what a good sleep schedule looks like here. 

Does It Matter What Time You Nap?

It matters what time you nap. If you nap too late in the day or for too long, you may struggle to fall asleep at night. 

Follow these rules to nap the right way: 

  • Nap for a maximum of 90 minutes: Shorter naps can also be beneficial. One study found a 10-minute nap is best for boosting energy without feeling groggy afterward. We’ve covered more on the best nap length here.
  • Nap during your afternoon dip in energy: You might be feeling tired during the afternoon and napping at this time should ensure you can still fall asleep come bedtime. Check RISE for when this afternoon dip in energy will be each day.  

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Does It Matter if You Sleep at Night or During the Day?

Yes, it matters if you sleep at night or during the day. It’s important to sleep at night rather than during the day as, at night, you’ll be sleeping in sync with your circadian rhythm, which is tuned to the day-night cycle of the outside world. 

Being out of sync with your circadian rhythm can lead to low energy, trouble sleeping, lowered mental performance, and an increased risk of health conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. 

And if you sleep during the day, you may find it harder to get enough sleep overall. One study found doctors got significantly less sleep when working night shifts and sleeping during the day compared to working day shifts and sleeping at night. The day sleepers also performed worse at work and were more likely to make errors. 

The sleep you get during the day may be poor sleep, too. Sunlight coming through your blinds, traffic noises outside, and your partner moving around the house could wake you up, causing broken sleep. Even if nothing disrupts you, you may struggle to stay asleep as you’re working against your circadian rhythm. 

Broken sleep isn’t as restorative as continuous unbroken sleep, though. 

Feel like you can fall asleep easily during the day? This isn’t a good thing. This may be a sign you’re sleep deprived or have a sleep disorder.   

If you can’t sleep at night, we’ve got tips for:

Heads-up: If you can’t sleep at night due to a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea, reach out to your healthcare provider or a sleep expert. They can recommend the best treatment options for these sleep problems. If health issues or a new baby are keeping you up at night, try and lower your sleep debt with daytime naps.

Sleeping during the day can be a good thing when you’re taking a nap. Naps can help you catch up on sleep if you didn’t get enough of it at night, and research shows naps can help decrease sleepiness in those with irregular sleep schedules. 

Does it Matter What Time You Sleep When Sleep Deprived?

It may not matter as much what time you sleep when sleep deprived. While it’s best to sleep on a consistent schedule and at times that match your circadian rhythm, if you're very sleep deprived, it may be better to get sleep at any time you can, rather than fretting over finding the perfect sleep times. 

However, we’re not recommending you ignore all the science here. Stick as closely to your best sleep times as you can to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm and causing more sleep loss, but look for opportunities to relax the rules slightly to squeeze in more sleep (more on those below). 

If you’re struggling to get enough sleep at the right times for you, focus on keeping your light exposure and meal times consistent each day as this can help to keep your circadian rhythm in check when your sleep is all over the place. 

To catch up on sleep, you can: 

  • Head to bed a little earlier than usual: You may struggle to fall asleep hours earlier than usual. We’ve got tips on how to make yourself tired here.
  • Sleep in a little later than usual: We usually recommend keeping this to an hour or so, or two hours max, so as to not disrupt your circadian rhythm too much. 
  • Take afternoon naps: We usually recommend keeping naps to 90 minutes max and napping during your afternoon dip in energy, so you can still fall asleep later that night. 
  • Improve your sleep hygiene: Sleep hygiene is the set of good sleep habits that help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night, so you get more sleep overall. 

RISE can walk you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day. And the app can work out how much sleep debt you have and keep track of it as you chip away at that number. 

RISE app screenshot reminding of your sleep hygiene habits
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits daily.

 

Heads-up: Another time you should focus on getting sleep over getting sleep at the perfect time is when driving. If you’ve got a lot of sleep debt, you’re more at risk of microsleeps behind the wheel. A microsleep is when you fall asleep for a few seconds, sometimes without even realizing it. 

This can happen if you do shift work — a 2023 review found nurses working night shifts or rotating shifts had an increased risk of drowsy driving and car crashes — but it can also happen if you’re sleep deprived for any reason.  

If you’re feeling sleepy while driving, pull over and rest or let someone else take the wheel. If you’re driving alone and need to keep going, pull over, drink two cups of coffee, and take a 15-minute nap. We’ve got more advice on what to do if you’re falling asleep while driving here.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications here

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Sleep at the Right Times for You 

It matters what time you sleep. You want to sleep during the day at times that match your circadian rhythm for the best energy, mental performance, and health and well-being.

The one caveat? If you’ve got significant sleep debt, you can relax a little on the rules to catch up on sleep (for example, you might head to bed a little earlier or sleep in a little later). 

The RISE app can help you perfect the timing of your sleep. RISE can work out how much sleep you need, whether you have any sleep debt, and predict the timing of your circadian rhythm each day, so you can sync up with it. 

RISE can also remind you when to do 20+ healthy sleep hygiene habits, so you have a better chance of getting a good night’s sleep, no matter what time you try and get it. 

It doesn’t take long to see an improvement — 80% of RISE users get better sleep within five days.

FAQs

Does it matter what time you sleep?

Yes, it matters what time you sleep. Sleeping in sync with your body clock can help you get enough sleep overall, have more energy, perform better, and lower your risk of health conditions like diabetes, obesity, and depression. The best time to sleep will be different for everyone, though.

Does it matter what time you sleep if you get enough sleep?

Yes, it matters what time you sleep, even if you get enough sleep. Sleeping in sync with your body clock can lead to more energy, better mental performance, and a lower risk of health issues like obesity, diabetes, and depression. The best time to sleep will be different for everyone.

Does it matter what time you sleep if you get 8 hours?

Yes, it matters what time you sleep, even if you get eight hours of sleep. Sleeping in sync with your body clock can lead to more energy, better mental performance, and a lower risk of health issues like obesity, diabetes, and depression. The best time to sleep will be different for everyone and we don’t all need eight hours of sleep.

Does the time you sleep matter or how long you sleep?

Both the time you sleep and how long you sleep matters. For the best energy, health, and mental performance, you want to get enough sleep for you at the right times for your body clock. However, if you can’t sleep at the right times for your body clock (perhaps you’re a night shift worker or new parent), focus on getting enough sleep overall.

Does it matter if you sleep at night or during the day?

Yes, it matters if you sleep at night or during the day. Sleeping during the day will mean you’re out of sync with your body clock, which can lead to lower energy, worse mental performance, and a higher risk of health issues like diabetes, obesity, and depression. You may also struggle to get enough sleep if you sleep during the day. If you can’t get enough sleep at night, daytime sleep in the form of naps can help you catch up on sleep.

Is it OK to sleep late and wake up late?

It may be OK to sleep late and wake up late so long as you’re getting enough sleep for you and you’re sticking to this sleep schedule regularly (or you only sleep late every now and again). Sticking to a regular sleep schedule will help you stay in sync with your body clock, which lowers your odds of health conditions like diabetes, obesity, and depression.

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Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

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