How Much Sleep Do You Need?

what time do you go to sleep?

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who bounds out of bed in the morning, refreshed and optimistic….

Instead, my first groggy thought when I wake up is always, “What are the chances I can go back to sleep?” I don’t drink coffee, I rarely have an appetite for breakfast and I’ve never had an exercise routine to get me going. I’m a morning misanthrope.

A couple of years ago, I tried to reinvent myself. I polled all my friends for suggestions on becoming an early bird. One said to pound a big glass of cold water immediately after waking up, on the theory that hydration is the holy grail of morning energy. Another told me to read news and email on my phone right away to jumpstart my hazy brain. Someone else recommended an app that would sense my sleep cycle through my pillow and rouse me at an optimal moment. Nothing worked in the slightest. I even asked my doctor and he had this surprising response — “Two words: turkey bacon.” (Unfortunately, nibbling protein before 7 a.m. didn’t help either, and “turkey bacon” is now a household code phrase for a rough morning.)

Over time, what has worked is admitting that I can’t be both a night owl and an early bird. I need my sleep. When I go to bed early enough to get eight hours, I can awken semi-cheerfully. It sounds simple, but… My husband wakes up freakishly chipper after six hours, or even significantly less. He’s a morning person on the incomprehensible, guilt-inducing level of Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton. After years of sweetly going to sleep at the same time, I now get into bed much earlier on my own and try hard to tune out the sense of wakefulness coming from other parts of our apartment. Sometimes, I fall asleep right away, sometimes my husband will tuck me in and pat my hair, but just as often I’ll lay awake by myself in the dark because I can’t wind down when I know someone else is up. And, late-night is still, quite simply, my jam. It’s a work in progress.

So, I’m fascinated to hear: What’s your sleep routine like? Do you coordinate sleep with your significant other, or do you go to bed at different times?

P.S. Reading in bed and Joanna’s 8 lessons about marriage.

(Photo by Reidar Pritzel)

  1. Amy says...

    Two words: trazodone and melatonin. I am and always will be a night owl, but a job with a start time of 7:30 keeps me from living my dreams. Also, my husband likes to get up early to go to the gym. We go to bed at the same time and much earlier than I would on my own, but I must say that I am now much more restful. I had to play around with the medication dosing until I had just enough to keep me asleep all night and yet not be groggy all day. And if I really want to sleep like a baby, I make sure to hit the gym :)

  2. You know what works like a charm to get me out of bed as soon as the alarm rings? First: I have a light simulating aurora thing for an alarm clock which makes morning more enjoyable and second and most importantly, if I really need to get up I drink a full glass of water right before falling asleep. Waking up you just need to go so badly that you get up ? ( depending on your bladder you might need a little more or a little less water)

  3. Ohh I also suffer from this. I need to get up at 6.30 in the morning and I need about 8 hours of sleep. But really.. I just cannot put my head down before 12. I always complain that “the system” works against nightowls like us, lol!

    xx B

  4. Lately, i think in the past year i have to go to bed before my husband, because he tend to snore. So, i need no lights, no sounds and with that i still have to wait around 30 minutes to fall sleep. this works for me, but always in the morning, no matter if i sleep 8 hours, i still need those 5 minutes more to no hate people /

  5. Libertad Vera says...

    I was all my live a night owl, when my now husband (an early bird) and I start to live together was complicated. he got to bed early because he woke up early, while I was always running late, never had breakfast and complain a lot about my “insomnia”. Turns out, when I adapted my sleepy schedule with his (he also adjust his routine a little bit), everything worked great, now I sleep perfectly and had more time. Still waking up at 6:30 am not my favorite thing.

  6. Daniela says...

    I pretty much make my boyfriend go to bed with me because I cannot sleep when I know he’s up. Luckily we are both night owls, but I do work full time so have to be up semi early while he is a student and can sleep in most days. My optimal sleep tends to be from 11-8/9 so I clearly need a lot of sleep.

  7. Katie says...

    Oh, I hear you. This has, hands down, been the hardest part about going into teaching: waking up at 5-6 AM, and being ON ON ON at 7:30 AM. Two things help more than anything: 1) getting a dog. Are all dogs morning creatures? Mine is, and he is relentless about his morning walk. 2) Last year I began ‘sleep training’ myself the month before school starts. I let myself go nuts and stay up as late as I like in June & July, but then in August, I went to bed a half hour earlier every night the two weeks prior to school. My other tricks: sleep with a window open (a colder room seems to help?), turn the shower to cold for the last 10 seconds, and drink coffee. My last resort? Driving to work with the windows down and the heater on my feet :) Like you, it’s a work in progress! ALSO: why is the WHOLE world designed for morning people, it seems like? Is there ANY vocation where being a night owl is beneficial? Argh.

    • Rachel says...

      Yes! I am naturally a morning person, but had to work night shift as a nurse for 4 years. Some people love it….. I was NOT one of them.

  8. You hit it right when you said ” I can’t be both a night owl and a early bird.” I feel you. I struggle to wake up early so as to start my day “right” and it is usually what most “successful” do. But it’s really been a struggle for me. I’m really more “hyped” during the night. What I do is, I exercise after work and walk home afterwards so that my energy will drain and I’ll be hitting the bed and sleep in no time.

  9. JenL says...

    I go to bed 1-2 hours before my husband. I think it’s relaxing to hear him making “awake” sounds in the apartment while I fall asleep. It’s sort of like a note to myself that someone else is making sure everything is ok – I just have to sleep, it’s my only job right at this moment :)

  10. Anna says...

    I must go to sleep before 11:30 pm – otherwise I am like a zombie in the morning. If my husband wants to do something – watch football (i.e. soccer – not American football), read, work – I just go to sleep on my own whenever I feel tired. I have a shower, take off my make-up, have a herbal tea or a glass of water, read a little and just drift away. And my body just refuses to function before 7 am. Seriously – even if I go out for a run, my heart beat is way higher than later in the morning or during a day. And I am so envious when people say “5-6 hours of sleep is plenty!”. For a nap. Maybe.

  11. For me, the key to enough sleep was to know HOW much Sleep I actually need.
    So on a Friday Night I started a Timer when I was ready to sleep. On saturday morning, after the first eye opening I hit on “stop” – 7 hours 59 minutes!! Conclusion: I need 8 hours, 10 when I’m sick.
    Plus absolute Darkness and Quietness.

  12. Slowly but surely becoming a morning person! I was recently in a rut, though which made it nearly impossible to actually get out of bed until the very last possible second.

  13. I’m waiting for the day I can sleep through the night. We have a 1 year old who still has “appointments” at midnight and three am. The only thing that gets him back to sleep is a bottle. Needless to say, he is a very chubby baby! :-)

    Analog House

  14. Lindsay says...

    Is your thyroid in check? Get your levels tested. 1 in 10 women have a thyroid hormone deficiency and it makes it really difficult to get up in the morning.

  15. Amanda says...

    Joanna, try using some essential oils!

    At bedtime, use either lavender or marjoram (or a combo). Whichever you choose, put 1 drop on the left side of your pillow, and 1 drop on the right (don’t worry about staining as essential “oils” are not actually oil). This will help you rest your mind, relax, and sleep. Upon waking, if you are a person that hops in the shower, keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil nearby and before you hop in, shake out some drops all over your tub. When you get into the shower you will be breathing in the peppermint vapours. I find this very refreshing and stimulating. If you don’t like peppermint you could use rosemary. If you are not a shower first thing kind of gal, a drop or two to a tissue that you can carry around and sniff would also work.

    PS – Too much lavender turns it into a stimulant so be careful how much you use before bed.