It’s 2 a.m. and while the rest of the world is fast asleep, you’re only just starting to get sleepy. Then, come 7 a.m., when those around you start waking up, you’ve still got a few more hours until your day starts.
Sleeping late — both staying up late and sleeping in the next day — can be a nice one-off indulgence, but if it’s happening every night and it’s at odds with your life or work schedule, it can start affecting your life.
You might need to wake up early for work or to get the kids ready for school, meaning your late night suddenly became a night of too little sleep.
Below, we’ll dive into the many reasons you might be sleeping so late and how you can use the RISE app to get your sleep schedule back on track.
First up, let’s look at the reasons you might be staying up so late at night.
Your chronotype is your natural tendency to go to sleep and wake up later, or to be an early bird or night owl. But this isn’t just a preference. Your chronotype is determined by genetics, meaning, if you’re a night owl, you’re literally hardwired to have a later sleep-wake cycle.
There’s more than just early and late chronotypes, too. Many of us sit somewhere in between the two extremes. In fact, experts measure chronotypes on a continuous scale, and there are 351 genetic variants associated with being a morning person alone.
Your chronotype is one of the things that dictates the timing of your circadian rhythm. This is your body’s internal biological clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and controls the timing of when you feel awake and sleepy, when your body produces certain hormones, and when your body temperature fluctuates, among other things.
If you’re a night owl, your circadian rhythm will skew later, causing you to naturally feel sleepy later than morning types.
Find out what your chronotype is here.
Sleep hygiene is the name for the set of behaviors you can do to help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night. If you have poor sleep hygiene, you’ll find it hard to fall asleep and may end up feeling wide awake late into the night, even if you’re not naturally a night owl.
Poor sleep hygiene includes common behaviors like:
You can learn more about how to fix poor sleep hygiene here, and we’ll dive into it in more detail below.
When you’ve had a long day at work, then a long evening of running errands or taking care of the kids, it’s easy to feel resentful when bedtime rolls around. You want some “me time,” so you stay up late scrolling through social media or watching a few more episodes of your latest Netflix favorite.
This is revenge bedtime procrastination. You’re putting off going to bed, even though there’s nothing in particular forcing you to stay away and you know you should be sleeping.
You can learn more about revenge bedtime procrastination and how to combat it here.
Sleep disorders can also cause people to go to sleep later than usual. These include:
Speak to a healthcare professional or sleep specialist if you think a sleep disorder is the reason you’re sleeping so late.
Some of us can’t get out of bed without hitting the snooze button a few times, and others could easily sleep until noon. If this is you, here’s what may be causing you to wake up so late.
Yes, your chronotype may be to blame again. Just like if you’re going to bed late, if you’re sleeping in late, it may be your genetics at play.
Your night owl chronotype will mean your body naturally wants to sleep in later into the day.
Your sleep need is the amount of sleep you need each night. It’s determined by genetics, just like height and eye color, and it’s not simply eight hours for everyone.
If you’re sleeping late into the day, it may just be your body trying to get the sleep it needs after a later bedtime.
For example, if your sleep need is nine hours, and you go to bed at midnight, your body would want to sleep until 9 a.m. (or later, depending on how long it took you to fall asleep and restful your night was), even if you think you should be getting up at 7.
To find out your sleep need, turn to the RISE app. RISE uses historical phone use data and proprietary sleep-science-based models to work out your sleep need down to the minute.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need. At RISE, we measure this over your past 14 nights.
If your sleep need is nine hours, for example, but you’ve only been getting seven hours of sleep a night recently, you’ll have built up quite a bit of sleep debt.
This sleep deprivation will lead to daytime sleepiness and everything from your mood to your productivity to your physical health will take a hit.
Beyond that, your body will want to get more sleep when it can to catch up on what’s been lost. If you don’t go to bed earlier or take a nap during the day, your body may take the chance to sleep in later if you let it.
To see if high sleep debt is the reason you’re sleeping in late, check RISE to see how much you have. We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours to maximize your energy levels.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
Sleep disorders can also cause you to sleep in late, either by causing a delay in your sleep-wake cycle (in the case of DSPD and sleep onset insomnia, for example) or by causing nighttime awakenings and sleep loss during the night, causing your body to want to sleep in later to be able to meet your sleep need.
Sleep disorders cause late wake-up times include:
You may be going to bed at a reasonable time and still sleeping late into the day. Here are a few reasons you may be sleeping so much.
It’s easy to think everyone needs eight hours of sleep, or wish you only needed six so you could get more done each day. But some of us simply need more rest to be our healthiest, most productive selves.
Check the RISE app to find out your sleep need. It may be longer than you think.
As we explained above, if you’ve got high sleep debt, your body may take the opportunity to catch up on sleep when it can, which could mean sleeping for longer at night.
The higher your sleep debt, the longer it will take to recover, meaning you could find yourself sleeping for long periods at night for a while as your body slowly chips away at the sleep debt you’ve accumulated.
You can check RISE to see how much sleep debt you have and track it as you pay it back.
Your body may need more sleep than usual when:
You may spend nine hours in bed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting nine hours of sleep.
There are plenty of studies showing how inaccurate self-reported sleep data is. A 2021 study, for example, found the agreement level between self-reported sleep and sleep measured by a device was only 57%.
This is where sleep efficiency comes in. Sleep efficiency is the measure of how long you spend in bed actually sleeping, taking into account the time it takes you to fall asleep and the time you spend awake during the night.
But it’s almost impossible to figure out how long you spent awake in bed each night. We all suffer from retrograde amnesia where we can’t remember the minutes it took to fall asleep or the micro awakenings (sub 10 minutes) that can happen during the night.
All this adds up to you sleeping for less than you think you have. You can check RISE to see how fragmented your sleep is during the night.
Regularly sleeping for long periods of time each night? We covered whether nine hours of sleep is too much here.
Now you know why you’re staying up late, sleeping in late, or sleeping for long periods of time, it’s time to do something about it.
But, before you start trying to change your sleep patterns, take a moment to think about why you want to go to sleep and wake up earlier in the first place.
Sleeping late isn’t necessarily a problem in itself. If you’re meeting your sleep need, enjoying plenty of energy during the day, and it’s not impacting your daily life, then you may not need to move your bedtime or wake time any earlier.
If this is the case, give yourself some compassion and stop worrying about sleeping so late — anxiety is the enemy of sleep, so you may end up with sleep loss simply by worrying about something that isn’t a problem to begin with. Just because hustle culture says it’s better to be a morning person, doesn’t mean it is — the morning won’t naturally be your most productive time if you’re a night owl.
You may want to shift your sleep times, however, if you need to wake up early for work or personal obligations, your late bedtime is causing you to rack up sleep debt, or you’re curious about the health benefits. (While it can be hard to untangle the effects of sleep debt and circadian misalignment from the negative health outcomes ascribed to a late chronotype, being a night owl — with its attendant potential for sleep debt and circadian misalignment — is a known “risk factor” for a host of psychiatric disorders and health conditions, whereas being a morning bird is seen as “protective.” Research suggests waking up just one hour earlier reduces depression risk by 23% and waking up two hours earlier may improve stress levels and mental and physical performance).
Here’s how to start sleeping earlier:
You can work to bring your circadian rhythm forward, so you feel sleepier earlier in the evening. Here’s what to do:
Pro tip: If you’re a night owl, you can work to become a morning person, but it has to be an active process. Your sleep-wake cycle may naturally start drifting later and later if you don’t keep on top of it. Our advice? Be extra vigilant about revenge bedtime procrastination, sleeping late on weekends, and poor sleep hygiene (more on that soon).
RISE can predict your circadian rhythm each day based on your sleep times and inferred light exposure. You can check when your natural peaks and dips in energy will be and schedule your day to match — remembering to plan difficult tasks for the morning, even if this feels unnatural for you.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their upcoming energy peaks and dips on the Energy screen.
You can learn more ways to reset your circadian rhythm here.
Improving your sleep hygiene will make sure bad habits don’t keep you awake late into the night, it’ll ensure the sleep you get is healthy and natural, and it’ll keep your circadian rhythm in check.
Here’s what to do:
To help you stay on top of sleep hygiene, RISE can guide you through 20+ healthy sleep habits each day and tell you the exact time you should do them to make them more effective.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.
Naps are a great way to pay down sleep debt and boost your energy levels, but sleeping during the day can disturb your nighttime sleep, especially if you snooze too late in the day or for too long.
We recommend skipping naps altogether when you’re trying to shift your sleep schedule. You want to feel sleepy earlier than usual and taking an afternoon nap may mean you feel awake later into the night.
Once you’ve shifted your sleep-wake times earlier, you can enjoy the benefits of napping. Keep them to about 10 to 20 minutes, however, and no later than during your afternoon dip in energy (RISE can tell you when this is each day).
Heads-up: You might want to avoid naps altogether if you have insomnia, as they can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Melatonin supplements have the power to change the timing of your circadian clock, so they can be used to help you feel sleepy when you usually wouldn’t.
One study gave people with DSPD 5 milligrams of melatonin five hours before their dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) — this is the time of night when your brain’s pineal gland starts producing melatonin, the hormone that primes your body for sleep.
The melatonin supplement brought forward the participants’ natural melatonin production by 1.5 hours, meaning they fell asleep earlier and took less time to fall asleep.
You shouldn’t rely on melatonin to get to sleep every night, however. Use it in the short term to shift your circadian rhythm and then turn to sleep hygiene habits to maintain your new early bedtime.
If you do decide to take melatonin supplements, RISE can tell you the best time to take them each day.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their take melatonin supplements reminder.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep earlier or find yourself sleeping late into the day, there are things you can do to shift your sleep schedule — if it needs shifting in the first place.
To shift your circadian rhythm earlier, focus on making changes gradually and then stick to a regular sleep schedule. Maintain excellent sleep hygiene to ensure nothing keeps you up past bedtime, so you can keep your sleep debt low and energy levels high.
Use the RISE app to find out your individual sleep need, see a prediction of your circadian rhythm each day, and get reminders for when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits to get a good night’s sleep at the times you want.
It is OK to sleep very late if you’re meeting your sleep need each night and it’s not impacting your life. But if you’re not able to get enough sleep by sleeping very late, then it’s worth shifting your sleep and wake times earlier to feel and function at your best.
If you can’t fall asleep until 4 a.m., poor sleep hygiene habits like late-night caffeine and bright light could also be keeping you awake. You may have delayed sleep phase disorder, when your circadian rhythm runs later than usual.
If you stay up late and sleep all day, you may be a night owl, be catching up on sleep debt, have poor sleep hygiene — which is keeping you awake at night — or have a sleep disorder like delayed sleep phase disorder or insomnia.
If you’re sleeping late but getting eight hours, you might not have to worry, you may simply be a night owl. Use the RISE app to check your individual sleep need to find out if eight hours is enough sleep for you.
Stop sleeping so late by gradually shifting your sleep-wake times earlier and then keeping a regular schedule. Improve your sleep hygiene to help you fall asleep earlier. Do this by getting light in the morning and avoiding light, caffeine, large meals, and alcohol too late in the day.
If you sleep late, you generally shouldn’t wake up early as this won’t give your body enough time to meet your sleep need. If you have to wake up early, however, focus on paying back sleep debt after a lack of sleep by taking a nap during the day or getting more sleep the following night.
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