This 59-minute span is the "sweet spot" bedtime for protecting your heart.
close up of a woman sleeping on a bed
Credit: Roos Koole

You're probably well aware that the quality and quantity of sleep both play a crucial role in your energy levels, overall well-being and future disease risk. And now, scientists are discovering when we hit the hay is also a key component to make the most of our zzz's. Since it aligns with our natural circadian rhythm and exposure to daylight in the earlier hours, the best time to tuck in is between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. to reduce your risk for heart disease, according to new research published November 9 in the European Heart Journal Digital Health.

Starting with bedtime and wake time data for a 7-day period from more than 88,000 adults between age 43 and 70, the researchers also gathered lifestyle, health, physical and demographic details about each participant. Then nearly 6 years later, they checked in to see how many had received some form of cardiovascular disease diagnosis, such as a stroke, heart attack or heart failure. About 3% of the individuals developed cardiovascular disease within this time. Those who went to bed at midnight or later were at highest risk, while those who fell asleep between 10 and 10:59 p.m. had the lowest risk.

You might be thinking the earlier the better, after hearing those results, but you can actually start snoozing too early. Compared to those who hit the "sweet spot" between 10 and 11 p.m.:

  • Those who fell asleep after 12 a.m. were at 25% higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Those who fell asleep between 11 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. were at 12% higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Those who fell asleep before 10 p.m. were at 24% higher risk for cardiovascular disease—almost as high as the night owls.

"The riskiest time was after midnight, potentially because it may reduce the likelihood of seeing morning light, which resets the body clock," explains David Plans, Ph.D., a study author and a senior lecturer in organizational neuroscience at the University of Exeter, via a press statement. "The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning. While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health."

Other studies have proven that those who struggle to sleep live shorter lives, Thomas Kilkenny, D.O., the director of sleep medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, tells Healthline. And "this report goes even a step further to show timing of sleep onset also can be a contributor to good cardiovascular health and that, if you go to sleep too early or too late, it adversely increases cardiovascular risks."

The authors confirm that this adds to mounting evidence that when and how we sleep both impact our heart health throughout the lifespan. If these results are verified in future larger research studies (they aren't 100% sure if that 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. time is universal or if that could vary by population), a well-timed, high-quality sleep routine might become part of our overall heart disease prevention Rx.

"Optimal circadian timing of sleep may vary for some people, especially those who are 'morning larks' or 'night owls,'" Harly Greenberg, M.D., the chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, adds to Healthline.

If you struggle to sleep well or snooze at a consistent hour, try this 3-day sleep-minded meal plan and consider these 7 bedroom design tips for better sleep, according to experts. In addition, the Sleep Foundation suggests these strategies to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Sleep in a cool room, around 65 degrees
  • Allocate time for sleep in your schedule by setting an alarm 30 minutes before bedtime to remind you to begin to wind down (read: turn off tech, listen to soothing music, practice a few bedtime yoga poses)
  • Adjust your sleep schedule slowly to acclimate to a new bedtime or more shut-eye overall
  • Try to move your body and soak up some natural light (with SPF on, of course) during the day
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine for the few hours before bed
  • Keep a sleep diary noting quantity, quality and pre-bedtime habits and talk to your doctor if you consistently struggle to sleep

"The number one tip for achieving our sleep goals is to specifically set aside an appropriate amount of time for sleep and to maintain a strict schedule. Oftentimes, we tend to fit in sleep when we can, allowing work and social schedules to interfere with good sleep timing. Sleep is one of the three things we humans must do to survive. Eat, drink and sleep. Everything else is pretty much an elective," Dr. Kilkenny concludes.