Best Bed Time? Ask the scientists

Scientists reveal the best hour to fall asleep

  • Revealed – the golden hour for falling asleep
  •  Does your brain let you down in the evenings?
  •  Here’s the dangerous way AND the safe way to boost your focus and concentration

What time did you get to bed last night?

I’m not being nosey, promise!

But according to some brand new research, your regular bedtime could be important.

A peer-reviewed study in the European Heart Journal has found ‘the golden hour’ in which it’s healthiest to fall asleep.

Apparently, it’s between 10pm and 11pm.

This was based on the monitored heart patterns of 88,000 adults over a six-year period.

Those who went to sleep after 11pm had a 12% greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease… while those who fell asleep BEFORE 10pm had a 24% increase in risk.

And here’s what really caught my eye…

According to the research, the link between sleep and cardiovascular risk was higher among women.

Although when you hear what one of the lead scientists said, it’s not so clear cut.

“It may be that there is a sex difference in how the endocrine system responds to a disruption in circadian rhythm,” they said. “Alternatively, the older age of study participants could be a confounding factor, since women’s cardiovascular risk increases post-menopause.”

The thing is, while it might be nice to fall asleep by 11pm, it’s not always an option.

You might recall a Good Life Letter I wrote last year about the four chronotypes:

  • Lions – early risers, who get slumps in the late afternoon but are able to fall asleep easily at night (15-20% of the population)
  • Wolves – struggle in the mornings and feel at their most energetic after sundown (15-20% of the population)
  • Dolphins – light sleepers, prone to insomnia, who wake up tired and never feel quite alert, though get bursts of energy throughout the day (15%-20% of the population)
  • Bears – get 7-8 hours sleep each night and are alert during the day but tired in the evening (50% of the population)

So if you’re a wolf or a dolphin, it’s likely that you’re not going to get to sleep in the golden hour.

Similarly, if you work late shifts or you have lots you need to do in the evening, whether that’s dealing with kids, pursuing a hobby or running a part-time business.

‘Side hustles’ are all the rage these days, with about a quarter of Brits saying that they make a second income outside of their work. If you have to work in the evening, you will need longer to wind down afterwards, which can make getting to sleep at 10-11pm difficult.

My advice is therefore not to fret too much about the golden hour and focus on other aspects of your life that can reduce your heart attack risk, like good nutrition, exercise and stress reduction.

Actually, while on the subject of ‘side hustles’ and part time pursuits…

Here’s a question for you…

Do you get let down by your brain?

As we age it can be difficult to maintain concentration – whether that’s at work or when we pursue hobbies and business projects in our spare time.

We have so much going on in our lives and in our busy minds, that it can be hard to find focus when we need it.

This is particularly true of women who are going through the menopause – many report ‘brain fog’ caused by falling oestrogen levels, which reduces the amount of energy that goes to the brain.

If it’s any consolation, even young, high-fliers seek the holy grail of laser-sharp focus. For example, in California’s Silicon Valley, some employees of big tech companies “microdose” themselves with tiny amounts of magic mushrooms.

These are people trying to solve complex problems to tight deadlines with a lot of investment at stake, so they’re not doing it to get high. They claim it boosts their concentration and performance.

(It might interest you to know that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both admitted experimenting with psychedelics early in their careers.)

Other Silicon Valley types use nootropics (known as ‘smart drugs’) like modafinil. Effects include alertness, focus and an ability to tackle tricky problems.

This isn’t new…

The French author, Honoré de Balzac, would guzzle coffee while spending all night writing in a Parisian café. He claimed that after drinking it, “ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages.”

Saying that, he died of a heart attack aged 52!

So please don’t think I’m advising you to take drugs or overdose on any stimulants (even the legal ones). You could suffer physical and mental consequences.

Besides, a drug only temporarily solves a problem – without it, you will still struggle to concentrate.

Instead, you can use some proven techniques to get your brain into the right gear. Here are four to try:

Schedule your tasks

Decide on what task you need to carry out which requires your utmost attention (for example, doing your accounts for the month or following a module of a home study course) then work out, realistically, how long that should take you.

Schedule it into a calendar at a time when there are the fewest potential disruptions. If the task will take longer than a few hours, break it down into smaller tasks and schedule those across the week.

When it’s time to ‘work’, focus on getting that one task done in one session, then allow yourself to relax afterwards.

Declutter your space

Shut off all your phone, tablet and computer app notifications as these will instantly reduce your ability to focus. Also make sure the space you are working in is tidy so that you don’t get distracted.

Write down nagging thoughts

Before you sit down to work on something, you should declutter your mind too. Otherwise you’ll start worrying about taking the bins out or what you’re having for dinner or a work email you got earlier.

Write down all the nagging thoughts on a notepad so that you won’t fret about forgetting to do them, then allow yourself to concentrate on the important task at hand. You can go through your ‘nagging’ list later!

Use an egg timer

Get hold of one of those egg timers that home cooks use. Set the time to ring in 25 minutes. Then start work on your task. When the timer rings, take a 5-minute break.

Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by the internet, or start tidying up… just take a breather, walk around the house or garden or sit in contemplation, allowing your mind to wander. You might find that in those 5 minutes, amazing ideas come to you!

Then set the timer again for 25 minutes and go back into the task with renewed vigour.

Do this for the entire hour or two that you’re working and you’ll find that you have a much stronger level of concentration.

These are a far safer way to train your brain to think more clearly when you need it to!