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Your body functions best when you perform regular activities at the same time every day. These events are timing cues that help keep your body clock on schedule. For example, you should try to eat meals at times that are consistent from one day to the next.

Another influential daily activity is your bedtime. Choosing when to go to bed each night is an important decision. It determines how long you sleep, which will affect how well you function the following day.

What bedtime is best? In many cases, earlier is better. Research suggests that children fall asleep faster and sleep longer when they go to bed before 9 p.m.

But there is no single bedtime that is best for everyone. The best bedtime for you is dependent on how much sleep you need and when you have to wake up.

To determine your ideal bedtime, start with the time when you have to wake up - or prefer to wake up - most days of the week. Then count backward by the number of hours of sleep that you need. The result is your ideal bedtime.

However, this calculation assumes that you quickly fall asleep right after you get in bed, which is unusual for some people. For a more precise bedtime, you may need to go to bed about 15 minutes earlier to allow enough time for you to fall asleep.

The chart below shows how your ideal bedtime is influenced by your sleep need and wake time.

Sleep Need  Wake Time  Bedtime  Wake Time  Bedtime  Wake Time  Bedtime 
11 hours  6 a.m.  7 p.m.  7 a.m.  8 p.m.  8 a.m.  9 p.m. 
10 hours  6 a.m.  8 p.m.  7 a.m.  9 p.m.  8 a.m.  10 p.m. 
9 hours  6 a.m.  9 p.m.  7 a.m.  10 p.m.  8 a.m.  11 p.m. 
8 hours  6 a.m.  10 p.m.  7 a.m.  11 p.m.  8 a.m.  midnight 

For example, consider a young student who needs about 10 hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well-rested during the day. She has to wake up for school at 6 a.m. From that starting point she counts back by 10 hours, which brings her to 8 p.m. This is her ideal bedtime.

Ideally, you should try to keep a consistent bedtime even on weekends. This allows your body to maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule. It also makes it easier for you to wake up after the weekend on Monday morning.

Early school start times can make bedtime difficult for teens. During the teen years, a biological change causes a delay in the timing of their body clock. As a result, teens prefer to stay up late and may not feel sleepy before 10 or 11 p.m. This tendency to be “night owls” can make it hard for teens to get nine hours of sleep on school nights.

Take a moment to evaluate your typical bedtime. Does your bedtime allow you to get the amount of sleep that you need? If you are sleepy during the day, then you may need to begin going to bed earlier. Your bedtime is one of the most important events in your daily schedule.