The Health Breakthroughs that Mattered in 2016

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Wakeup Time Trumps Bedtime
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Wakeup Time Trumps Bedtime

Countless studies demonstrate the health benefits of getting sufficient sleep. (Past research has pegged the “sweet spot” at 7 hours, 46 minutes.) But more recent findings suggest that keeping a consistent bedtime isn’t nearly as critical as waking up at the same time every day — even on the weekends. In a University of Pittsburgh study, adults who woke up just one hour later on the weekends had bigger guts, higher BMIs, and more risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and Type-2 diabetes, regardless of their diet and exercise habits.

According to neurologist Dr. Christopher Winter, author of the new book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, trying to keep a set bedtime creates unnecessary anxiety around sleep, which winds up sabotaging slumber. “People treat their beds like a restaurant, like, ‘OK, I made a reservation so now it’s time to sleep,’ ” he says. “They try but end up staying up till 3 a.m. Bedtime shouldn’t mean when you go to bed — it’s the earliest time you ask yourself if you’re sleepy. If you’re wired, stay up. But staying up late doesn’t give you a get-out-of-waking-up-on-time-free card.” Sleeping in, says Winter, will kick-start an unhealthy pattern. “Sleep is one thing we don’t need to worry about,” he adds. “If you can’t fall asleep one night, you’ll just be sleepier the next day and probably sleep more the next night.”

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