In an “ideal” world, you’d have the luxury of going to bed early and then waking up early, all rested for a productive day ahead.

But some commitments, like job duties or child care, can make it difficult to adhere to the “early to bed, early to rise” philosophy.

There are perhaps two important aspects to consider when it comes to sleep: the amount of sleep you get and the consistency in time.

Going to bed while it’s dark can ensure you get enough rest while also making it easier to fall asleep. It’s also important to get the right amount of sleep on a regular basis to help prevent potential health consequences.

If you’re looking for advice for your own sleep schedule, consider the following guidelines for ideal sleep.

Ideally, people ought to go to bed earlier and wake up in the early morning hours. This pattern matches our biological tendencies to adapt our sleep pattern with that of the sun. You might find that you’re naturally sleepier after sundown.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests it’s best to fall asleep sometime between 8 p.m. and midnight. The exact time depends on when you tend to wake up in the morning. Another consideration is the amount of sleep you need per night.

Circadian rhythm is a term to describe your brain’s natural sleep-wake schedule. It’s like our internal clock.

Everyone experiences natural dips in alertness and increased wakefulness during certain times in a 24-hour period. Some estimates indicate that people are sleepiest at two points: between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

The better the quality of sleep you get, the less likely you are to experience significant daytime sleepiness.

Circadian rhythm also dictates your natural bedtime and morning wakeup schedules. Once you get used to going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, your brain adapts to this schedule.

Eventually, you might find yourself going to bed easily at night and waking up right before your alarm clock without any issues.

Your circadian rhythm may be off-balance if you work irregular shifts or go to bed at different times throughout the week. This can result in periods of daytime sleepiness.

Most experts recommend that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Here’s a breakdown of the average amount of sleep you should get by age:

AgeRecommended amount of sleep
0–3 months 14–17 hours total
4–12 months 12–16 hours total
1–2 years 11–14 hours total
3–5 years 10–13 hours total
9–12 years 9–12 hours total
13–18 years 8–10 hours total
18–60 years at least 7 hours per night
61–64 years 7–9 hours per night
65 years and older 7–8 hours per night

If you experience daytime sleepiness, it’s a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep at night. You might also experience accidents, irritability, and forgetfulness.

Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can also lead to more long-term health consequences. These include:

  • getting sick more often
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • obesity
  • depression

While the side effects of not getting enough sleep have long been established, researchers are now investigating the health consequences associated with too much sleep.

You might be sleeping too much if you find yourself needing more than 8 to 9 hours of sleep on a regular basis, and perhaps needing naps on top of this amount.

Sleeping too much can lead to many of the same side effects as sleeping too little, including:

  • depression
  • irritability
  • cardiovascular issues

However, such effects may not always be attributed to the act of sleeping too much itself. The excess sleep you require might instead be a sign of a related underlying health condition.

Some of the possibilities include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep apnea
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • obesity
  • thyroid disorders
  • asthma

The best time to go to sleep at night is a time frame in which you can achieve the recommended sleep recommendation for your age group.

You can figure out the best bedtime for your schedule based on when you have to wake up in the morning and counting backward by 7 hours (the recommended minimum per night for adults).

For example, if you need to be up by 6 a.m., you should consider winding down before 11 p.m.

Another key is to figure out a sleep schedule you can stick with every single night — even on weekends. Staying up late and sleeping in on the weekends can make it difficult for you to get back on track during the workweek.

Overall, it’s best to go to bed earlier in the night and wake up early each day. Still, this type of sleep schedule may not work for everyone.

It’s far more important to make sure you get enough sleep and that it’s good quality sleep. You can ensure this happens by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

Talk to a doctor if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, or if you continue to experience daytime sleepiness despite sticking with a consistent bedtime schedule. This could indicate issues with sleep quality, which could warrant further investigation.