This Is the Secret to Sleeping Better, According to Science

This month, we're determined to help you catch more z's. We've partnered with Equinox to build a sleep challenge guaranteed to help you feel more well-rested by October's end. Each week, we'll tackle one science-backed strategy to help you work toward getting more quality sleep. Last week was all about assessing your current habits via a sleep log. Next up, we talk about what might be the most important change to make for better sleep, according to science.

I am a morning person to a fault; the kind of crazy individual who truly relishes waking up at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning and taking a walk as the rest of the neighborhood is barely stirring. I have fallen so deeply into the habit of rising at this precise hour seven days a week that I rarely need to use an alarm anymore. Even on nights when I only log some fitful sleep, my eyes still flutter open a few minutes before 7.

Therein lies the problem: While my consistent wake time is a positive habit that works very well for my lifestyle, my bedtimes are historically all over the place. However, science tells us that regimenting both our sleep and wake times is the key to regular, quality sleep. In other words, consistency breeds consistency.

This logic was a huge cornerstone of my 12-week sleep training program at Equinox over the summer. After logging my sleep for a week and noting that I was tucking myself in anywhere from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on the weekends, my trainer, Ken Laing, advised that I start focusing on narrowing that window to an hour, tops.

After deciding that going to bed anywhere from 11 to midnight—give or take a few minutes—would be ideal for my target of seven and a half hours of sleep, I began aiming to fall asleep during that time seven days a week. Just as Laing predicted, this change alone yielded drastic improvement in my sleep quality, namely that I was sleeping through the night after just a few days.

Keep reading to learn why establishing consistent sleep and wake times might be the most crucial habit to master.