What is your ideal bedtime? When should you go to bed to wake up refreshed? The new Oura app comes with a bunch of new features that help you get more restorative sleep and feel energetic during the day. One way the app does this is by giving you guidance for your ideal bedtime on your daily timeline. You’ll start seeing the guidance after the app has collected enough data of your sleep quality and rhythms.
But why is there such a thing as an ideal bedtime? It has to do with the nature of sleep. Read on and we’ll unpack the story.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What circadian rhythm is and how it affects us
- Why it’s important to find and maintain a steady sleep rhythm
- How the Oura app guides you to find your ideal bedtime
Living in Sync with Our Internal Clocks
We humans follow a relatively steady daily rhythm, called our circadian rhythm. It means that our bodies function in sequences that follow each other rather regularly from day to day. So, we for example tend to get hungry and sleepy, efficient and most creative, at the same time of the day.
The circadian rhythm is endogenous to us: it’s in hardwired into our biology. We’re born with an internal clock, and this means that our mind and bodies – our metabolism, nervous system sleep-wake cycles among other – work optimally when we’re in sync with it.
These daily schedules are highly personal. Your body functions become synchronized with your own life rhythms, not with those of others. We don’t all get hungry at the exact same time. Some of us need to go to bed earlier, and some really aren’t at their best at the first hours of morning. For most people, our we feel at our best when our actions are in harmony with our circadian rhythm.
Here are a couple of examples of different daily rhythms, also called as chronotypes:
Daily Rhythms and Sleep Quality
Because our internal clocks orchestrate the way our bodies and minds optimally operate, we should learn what our own circadian schedules are, and try to stick with them. This applies to sleep as well.
Our sleep quality is very much affected by our own bedtime schedules. For example, our sleep schedule has an impact on the amount of restorative deep and REM sleep we get during the night. It also has an effect on how easy or difficult it is for us to fall asleep and to wake up.
In practice this means that there’s a time when your body is most ready for sleep, most ready to follow a healthy sequence of sleep stages (light, deep and REM sleep), and most ready to stay asleep for a healthy amount of time.
Finding and following your optimal sleep schedule is one of the best ways to pursue good quality nights and energetic days.
It would be wonderful if we could give out clear guidance on universally perfect sleep schedules. But as we said above, our internal clocks aren’t in sync. What sleep schedule works for one, doesn’t work for other.
It calls for some learning to discover what rhythm works for you, and that’s why the Oura app now guides you to find an ideal bedtime. Before we explain how this happens, we need to take a short detour to wake-up times.
Steady Sleep Schedule Is the Key
Your sleep schedule is heavily influenced by the time you need to wake up. And as we all know, you don’t always get to choose when that is.
If you know that you need to wake up at a specific time during most days of the week, that’s the constant around which you need to align your sleep schedule. If you need to wake up at 6am, going to bed at 2am just doesn’t result in you getting enough sleep (generally speaking, adults need 7–9 hours of sleep every night).
However, our bodies and minds appreciate when we follow our internal clock, which often means sticking to a rhythm. If we go to sleep and wake up around same time every day, our internal clocks keep on ticking and our bodies function according to a schedule.
To a certain extent, we can preset our internal clocks so that they better meet the schedules of our surrounding environment. Like if you’re working, or go to school, it may be that you need to adapt your rhythms a bit, especially if you tend to be more of an evening type of a person.
This also means that you should follow your sleep schedule consistently. As great as it feels to sleep in on weekends, making drastic changes to your sleep schedule disrupts your circadian rhythm. This, in turn, can result in poorer sleep quality.
A word of comfort: one poorly slept night doesn’t rock the boat, and sometimes it may be justifiable to sleep in to even out sleep debt. But in the long run, consistency is the king for our bodies and minds.
Finding Your Ideal Bedtime: Optimal and Recommended Bedtime Window
The new Oura app helps you in aligning your sleep schedules with your daily lifestyle by showing you your optimal/recommended bedtime window. In other words, the app guides you to go to bed at a time that will help you sleep long and well enough.
- Optimal bedtime window for good quality sleep
- Recommended bedtime window, which guides you towards optimal bedtime
When you begin using the Oura ring, it starts to collect data about your sleep: your sleep schedules, overall sleep quality and several contributors to it (such sleep stages, awake time, resting heart rate).
It takes a minimum two weeks for the ring to collect enough sleep data so that there’s enough information for any type of a sleep recommendation. Why? As mentioned, we’re all unique in our sleep rhythms, so Oura offers personalized guidance based on your unique data, rather than generalizations. So, remember to wear your ring regularly!
The two determining factors that help you find an optimal/recommended bedtime window are:
- Nights when all aspects of your sleep quality are in order
- Your sleep schedules
What does it mean to have all aspects of your sleep quality in order? We’re looking for nights when you sleep long and tranquil enough, your sleep contains a good pattern of sleep stages, and you recover during the night. If you’re familiar with the Oura app, this means that your sleep score is at least 85. When we say sleep schedules, we’re looking for the wake-up and bedtime schedule that matches your good quality nights.
Optimal Bedtime Window
If we find a clear pattern between your good quality nights and sleep schedule, what the Oura app starts showing you is your optimal bedtime window.
The optimal bedtime window shows when you’re most ready for sleep (note that it can still take some time for you to actually fall asleep!), helping you to rest long and well enough, recover, and stay energetic during the day. Consistent sleep schedule works miracles here: the window is calculated based on your most common wake-up time.
Recommended Bedtime Window
Some of us sleep relatively well, but there is still room for improvement in overall sleep quality. One common example is that your bedtime is too late when compared to your wake-up time. What the Oura app shows you in these cases is a recommended bedtime window.
If you see a recommended bedtime window in the Oura app, it means that we’ve found a bedtime window that clearly corresponds with your highest sleep scores. That’s the bedtime we recommend you to gradually move towards. After you’ve reached it, stick with the new schedule, especially if it’s not possible for you to change your wake-up times.
It’s Not All About Schedule
If you sleep very poorly, suffer from severe sleep disorders or have very irregular schedules, it can be that we cannot recommend you a bedtime window at all. In this case, it’s not just changing your bedtime that would improve your sleep quality, but there are other things that you should monitor and modify first.
The Oura app gives you guidance on how to improve your sleep, and by monitoring your sleep score and its contributors you can track how your sleep quality is influenced by your lifestyle. There are also some useful tips you might want to try out in order to get more deep sleep, find patterns between your deep sleep and lifestyle, or search for an optimal sleep-wake rhythm.
Want to find an optimal sleep schedule but don’t yet have tools to do it? Start your journey towards better sleep by visiting the Oura shop.