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Staying up late to Netflix, chill, and snack yourself to sleep is fun, until it’s not—like, um, when you actually have something to get up for in the morning. A day job, maybe. But even if you don’t live that 9 to 5 life, you might notice that in your 20s, the sleep habits of your wild younger years don’t feel as good as they used to. That might mean that you’ve starting waking up at 8am no matter what time you go to bed, or maybe you’ve noticed that the difference between six hours of sleep and eight can be a literal day-ruiner.
As your adolescent sleep cycle comes to an end, it’s important to update your bedtime habits. We talked to NYC sleep expert Dr. Martha Cortes about how to adjust your routine to start sleeping—and therefore, functioning—like an actual adult.
Sleep more, earlier
It’s not news that most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to feel well-rested (though Dr. Cortes notes that if you need more than eight or nine, you should see a doctor). But it’s not just how much sleep you get that matters—it’s when that sleep occurs. According to Dr. Cortes, if you’re staying up past 10pm, your brain doesn’t have a chance to secrete enough melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep). Without melatonin, she says “you don’t have serotonin. Serotonin is essentially your natural antidepressant chemistry of the body.” So people who stay up too late won’t just feel tired: “They’re more likely to be sad and depressed.”
The absolute latest you should be going to bed, she says, is 11pm.