The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

by Dianne Trussell, BSc Hons, Goonellabah, NSW, Australia


Do you find it difficult committing to a routine, quitting addictions, having enough energy, maintaining a positive attitude, staying emotionally stable, managing your moods, harmonizing with other people, remembering things, learning how to do new stuff, and/or changing behaviour when you realise that how you’ve been isn’t working?


Go to bed early! It can change your life.

There is an abundance of scientific research to support this conclusion, but it’s not often put together in a way that makes sense to us. And certainly not presented in a way that makes enough sense for us to actually make the choice to make the change. I offer this short summary, to perhaps help address this deficiency. So let’s get into our heads….. literally. 

The hippocampus is the part of your brain that takes all the things you have thought, felt, done and experienced in your day, and goes off to find a quiet, unstressed space while you sleep from 9 pm until midnight, to sort it all out for you. As it sorts it out, it connects it with everything else you have thought, felt, done and experienced in the past. To succeed, it has to talk to the cortex – the thinking, understanding, associating, sensing part of your brain that ‘knows where you’re at’ and how it all hangs together.

The hippocampus has to talk to the cortex because it has to know what’s ‘already in the files’ to be able to file the new stuff in the right places in the cortex. So the hippocampus and cortex have a kind of back-and-forth ‘email conversation’ throughout the night to get the ‘office work’ done. A different part of the office work is done during 2 types of sleep that we alternate between – dreaming (REM) and non-dreaming (SWS). And in each cycle of REM and SWS, the office work has progressed, and more stuff is transferred to the cortex all tidy and ready to go. Some parts of the cortex get the job done early in the night, and some parts later in the night. So you need the whole night to get the whole job completed – all parts of your cortex updated with the latest info in usable form.

There are some important things going on that impact this process. The ‘stress hormone’ – cortisol – can come along and make a mess of this lovely office filing project. Your brain’s natural cortisol level starts dropping when you go to sleep, and reaches the lowest level at midnight (hence that quiet, unstressed space during sleep). At midnight it starts to rise again. It’s maxed by the time you wake up. If you go to sleep much after 9 pm, you miss out on the ‘narrow window of opportunity’, the quiet time in which your brain can do the crucial first lot of work it has to, to get ready for the later work of the night and for tomorrow. Imagine yourself trying to do 3 hours’ work on the computer that has to be ‘in by midnight’ but you can’t even get into the office until 5 to 12!! You give up, or try to make up time while having to also do other time-sensitive jobs, and the stress and negative consequences build up.

Among those consequences of repeatedly going to sleep after 9 pm are a measurable (9%) shrinkage of the good ol’ buddy hippocampus, a degree of shrinkage associated with depression. Makes sense; even if you’re not depressed (yet), if the hippocampus is shrinking it’s not going to do its office job so well and as a result, you won’t cope very well with life. There are potentially also psychiatric disorders, sleep disorders, Cushing’s syndrome from too much cortisol for too long, leading to things like high blood pressure, bone loss, disfiguring marks on the face, a hump back, and diabetes. So the consequences can be more than just ‘feeling tired’. And the whole equation gets tighter as you get older, like the tsunami of your past choices finally hitting the coast!

The study found an optimum duration of sleep (7 to 9 hours) with both less and more being not so good although nowhere near as strong on effects as going to bed late. So for example sleeping from 8 pm till midnight or from 1 am till midday won’t benefit you as much as the optimal cycle, i.e. going to sleep between 9 and 10 pm, sleeping for 7 – 9 hours, and waking up between 5 and 6 am. The scientists didn’t study going to bed at 8 pm and getting up at 3 to 4 am, but based on how amazing I and many friends feel on this cycle, it would probably show an even more beneficial effect. It’s also important to note that the amount of sleep required may vary depending on the individual person’s life and what their body truly needs which will be influenced by how they have been living.

You might try to get off the hook by thinking: “Oh well, if I go to bed late, I’ll just sleep late and my brain will still get it all done,” Mega-wrong! The cycles to which our bodies naturally work are tied to much bigger and precise cycles of the planet, the moon, the sun, and in fact the whole cosmos, massive energies synchronizing all living bodies, that we can’t escape from (and would be unwise to try). Push it, and we become (and feel) less than we can be. Keep pushing it, and end up sick or crazy, or both.

Going to sleep by 9 pm is the way to go if you want to be a healthy, vibrant, well-balanced, and adaptable, on-the-ball human being, feeling great and making the most of life.

A few quotes from one of the easier-to-digest papers by Diana Kuperczko (Dept. of Neurology, University of Pecs, Hungary) et al in 2014 entitled: “Late bedtime is associated with decreased hippocampal volume in young, healthy subjects“, in ‘Sleep and Biological Rhythms’:

These results suggest the importance of adequate sleep timing and especially bedtime in determining hippocampal volume.

“…highlights the importance of adequate sleep timing and especially that of going to bed early in preventing hippocampal volume loss.”

Delaying sleep onset may lead to dissociations between the endogenous circadian pacemaker, Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal hormone axis, and sleep stages, which may have adverse consequences.”

This is all pretty cool. But you know what’s even cooler? It’s that, although there is a chunk of society that wants scientific research results and explanations before they will accept the truth of something, the truth is already accessible from our own bodies (which know), if only we listen. And that listening and knowing does not require scientific education or years of research to access; anyone is capable of accessing it. This is what the Ageless Wisdom has always taught, and it’s called ‘ageless’ because it’s still true now. All one has to do is accept the possibility and be helped (if necessary) to learn how to listen and change choices. I learned how from Serge Benhayon. For me, the science presented above is the ‘retrospective’, because my body has already been benefitting for several years from listening and changing choices, way before tracking down and compiling this research.


Read more:

“Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes you Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” by Simon Asquith






1,330 thoughts on “The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

  1. When I see how tired the pupils I teach often are I do wonder at how the trend not to go to bed early has been allowed to become the norm. It is such a simple concept yet has such profound consequences on our health and mental wellbeing that it seems strange that it is not more widely adopted.

  2. Great to re-read the science behind the early to bed advice. My Gran, tho knowing nothing about the science, was true in her suggestion then. Western lifestyle with late night parties nightclubs etc together with so much electric light let alone ipads and computers in our bedrooms, don’t serve us to get the deep unstressed sleep we all need. Hence the rush for coffee on waking and the explosion of coffee shops everywhere..

  3. You certainly present us with a very clear case for the benefits of going to bed early, something that so many of us fight against. It’s almost like an early bed-time is not cool and you’re acting like an old person before you need to be. Well this ‘old person’ has always loved going to bed early, but I love it even more knowing all the amazing processes that are going on in my wonderful body while I sleep, processes which are there to support me throughout my waking hours, and which I have come to deeply appreciate.

  4. I don’t need to understand how the mechanics of how a car works for me to be able to drive one, just like I don’t really need to understand the science of the body that confirms the benefits of early to bed and early to rise. In doing so and experiencing the benefits I already know the science in that it works for me. What is lovely about what you share Dianne is irrefutable confirmation of what is already a known, especially for those naysayers who want to see proof in black and white before they make different choices.

  5. Sleep is not just ‘sleep’ where nothing happens, but quite the opposite and lots is taking place. Resting is not just about a body coming to a halt, but in order for us to rejuvenate and revitalise, it needs to be given decent space and timing.

  6. When we realise that going to bed by 9pm is not going to bed ‘early’ but is what our body is naturally calling for we know this is ‘normal’.

    1. Good call Mary. I know someone who gets tired by 9 pm but won’t go to bed and instead pushes through, then can’t sleep because they become over-wired! 9 pm is the new normal for bedtime and then there is so much space on waking earlier than might be the case.

  7. It’s great to have the insight into the many jobs the body does at specific times throughout our day and night cycles. Even better were your final paragraphs about how we don’t even need to know this or read research, just listen to and honour our bodies and see the results in our health, wellbeing and vitality.

  8. “Go to bed early! It can change your life”. I have a feeling that if you shared this with most people you would not get a great response – probably something like: ‘I can’t. I’ve got too much to do’, or ‘going to bed early is for babies and old people’. Well I have been changing my sleep patterns over the last few years, going to bed early and getting up early, and I can say that making this choice has definitely changed my life – for the better. I have been my own scientific sleep experiment.

  9. Thank you Dianne for making the science of “Early to Bed’ so accessible. Committing to going to bed and getting to sleep between 9-10pm has been so supportive not just for my physical well being but also for my mental health as I find issues that are concerning me are often resolved after a rejuvenating night’s sleep and now I understand why.

  10. Going to bed early is really honouring our body, as we expect it to function fully yet we don’t always give it the best treatment I have found going to bed early truly supports me and my body.

    1. Yes it is supporting the body rather than expecting it to carry on regardless of how we abuse it during the day and then not giving it the opportunity to recuperate at the time that works best for it.

  11. I wholeheartedly support and appreciate the choice in going to bed early from how much my body enjoys the space to nurture and rejuvenate during sleep and also when making choices that truly support in every detail to maintain a lightness and flow during the day. The more my body is able to wind down in the evening, the easier it is to fall asleep and the more refreshed and vital my body feels when I wake up to start the next day.

  12. Is it not very interesting that the whole societal life takes place around the times that you share are the most beneficial times of our whole body make up and soul?!

  13. Dianne, you let science sound easy and playful. I love that and I can relate to what you are sharing by your down-to-earth practical sharing.

    1. This is what I love about Dianne, that she has a way of making science ‘sound easy and playful’, unlike my science teachers who used make it so boring and dry, and so offering me no inspiration to take note and learn. I could read science blogs like this every single day and not get bored.

  14. Love the science of how this works and how the body responds to going to bed early. I know for me I haven’t been aware of all that you share Diane but I have certainly felt the difference when I made the shift and commitment to myself and feeling like a completely different person. Sometimes I work and get home later but where ever else I can dedicate to this and even deeper than I have to get the full repose the body needs to be able to regenerate itself.

  15. Going to bed early nourishes and sustains us on many levels.. it’s a way of taking care of ourselves that actually leaves us feeling more refreshed and ready to deal with whatever is ahead of us.

  16. Re-reading this blog is so gorgeous – there is always something to bring more awareness to and begin to embody it deeper as a rhythm and cycle of daily life.

  17. What a simple science experiment to take part in– Early to Bed by 9pm….with true feedback offered from the body itself. No laboratory conditions, strict regulations or vast expense required.

  18. Wow! This blog is so inspiring to read – a great confirmation that we are all part of something far grander than just going to sleep at night to possibly ‘feel better’ in the morning. We are intrinsically part of the U N I V E R S E, whether we accept this or not.
    “The cycles to which our bodies naturally work are tied to much bigger and precise cycles of the planet, the moon, the sun, and in fact the whole cosmos, massive energies synchronizing all living bodies, that we can’t escape from (and would be unwise to try)”.

  19. ‘If you go to sleep much after 9 pm, you miss out on the ‘narrow window of opportunity’, the quiet time in which your brain can do the crucial first lot of work it has to, to get ready for the later work of the night and for tomorrow.’ Why would we want to miss out on this quiet time so things get done properly, this fine tuned instrument of us, the body, needs our care and nurturing into the smallest details and when we learn to listen we will feel the huge benefits of honouring what we feel. I love going to bed early already for years and I know this will not change.

  20. This is such a great step by step approach to a tool we have in our own medicine cabinet, that has no costs attached to it and can be implemented and experimented with any time we choose. It doesn’t need a body of evidence – our body and its response to the life we are living is evidence enough!

  21. Very interesting what you say about science being retrospective to the known wisdom your body has already registered as truth. And here I am questioning why I would want to be agreed with and confirmed by others before I can totally embrace my perception as truth, which I sometimes find myself doing.

  22. Our bodies are constantly giving us clues as to how to treat it we just have to be humble and obedient to its messages.

  23. Our bodies tell us instantly whats going on. The being inside knows this. The timeframe of knowing this instant knowing depends on the energy we are allowing to power our life. The spirit and it’s measured and controlled manner or the Soul which allows it all instantly with no holding back.

  24. We like to think we have control over our bodies, but I love how you have explained the relationship between the hippocampus and cortex part of the brain. When we get ourselves out of the way and simply let the body get on and do what it needs to it can take the trying and control out of life. Simply by going to bed when our bodies say they have had enough for the day is really quite simple, so interesting that many of us like to fight this.

  25. I was speaking with a relative yesterday who was sharing how they were so tired, we came to understand that they had been going to bed later and waking up later. It’s obvious when we look at it after but gradually although they were having the same time in bed they were more tired. Shows the power of not time in sleep but when we sleep and the quality of that sleep.

  26. Going to bed early has been a game changer in my life. The effects have led to healthier food choices, abundance of energy throughout the day and more room and care in the home space. That a win win situation by far!

  27. I love how you have broken down the study and made it simple and digestible to understand. I have read a lot of studies and they can be written in such a way that it is actually hard to understand. Reasearch is for us as humanity and it would be great if we would generally write it in a more understandable way in which it is also applicable to life. This would mean to let go of the ‘official research style writing’ and just write as we would normally do.

  28. When our mind continually tells us that if we don’t stay up we are missing out, we are simply listening to the wrong ” channel”. We need to tune in just a little bit deeper, and feel what is really there to be heard.

  29. Great to read about the science of going to bed early. My personal experience is that I feel very different going to bed consistently early. Much more energy on waking and there’s time to do what needs to be done before most people start their day.

  30. If we consider the whole day as a 24 hour cycle we return to each day, it makes sense to wind down each evening and prepare for a restoring sleep time each night.

  31. Dianne I love the simplicity of this blog, our whole body working to maximise the space that it is given to restore our body from our daily choices, and how if we don’t honour our body with the optimum space by going to bed early, the body ends up overwhelmed and we end up exhausted and open to illness and disease, I know from my own experiences how totally out of kilter I feel if I don’t honour my body with a regular early bed time.

  32. Not only is it great to be in bed by 9:00pm it is absolutely WONDERFUL to get up early. I often get up around 3:00am and the quality of the early morning is something very special and precious. So very much better to work gracefully and joyfully in the early morning with the stillness that is available than to stay up late.

    1. I used to find this when I was at school, I couldn’t stay awake late because there was so much going on in our house but waking early – even though it was cold, meant I got my work done so quickly and efficiently.

      1. The weird thing is that I have always loved going to bed early and getting up early but for some strange reason never did it when I was younger because nobody else did. These days I listen to my own body and wisdom which works really well rather than doing the so called normal which I can see is anyway not actually working for most people.

  33. Our bodies are the best scientists, and when we really listen to what they have to say, they tell us in no uncertain terms what they want! The more I listen and respect my body, the more energy I have and the surer and steadier, and more committed I feel. It’s quite amazing how things start to change when we listen to our bodies and live from there, instead of letting all our beliefs, pictures and expectations get in the way.

  34. What is the reason we think we need to catch-up on sleep? Could it be the ill choices we have made that leads us to exhaustion and is like trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in it? What is required is a new bucket.

  35. Diane this is a brilliant piece explaining the benefits of ‘early to bed’. I have worked shift work for many years and often felt quite exhausted and would get sick quite regularly, but since committing to getting to bed early, (when I am not working shift work,) has made a huge difference to my overall health and well-being and the way I cope with shift work.

  36. Understanding the scienctific reasoning behind early nights is such a great support, I can see how complicated I make life by overriding when I feel tired to get a bit more done. It makes such a difference going to sleep between 8pm and 9pm because I wake up earlier, feeling more prepared for the day (because my internal filing has been done) and have space to prepare for my day.

  37. Last night I put my daughter to bed an hour earlier, she had the same amount of sleep as normal because I needed to wake her early but felt far more vibrant.

  38. The Ageless Wisdom has indeed being around forever, the problem is we have not being listening to it and living it and that is why we are in the mess we are today with our rates of illness/disease/suicide etc. Live the truth of the Ageless Wisdom and life changes enormously.

  39. It is totally fascinating how science can explain the intricacy of how and what happens in our body – but that must have been a lot of hard work and effort finding out those details and I am totally with you that the truth is already within our body for us to pay attention and listen to, and we do not have to wait for a research to say that is now officially the truth.

  40. What is really interesting is that we can’t really accumulate sleep and yet if we miss a few good nights sleep we can feel so depleted.

  41. Wow the consequences of constant late nights are huge. If our health can be affected in this way and it is so easily avoidable why would we not change our late night habit and opt for something that is going to help us to feel vital and more alive. A no brainer really.

    1. And this is just one lifestyle habit, it doesn’t include our diet, exercise, emotional states, relationships, etc. We can see how all the choices we make can add up to some kind of stress, harm or damage to the body, or alternatively nurture and support the body to be and stay well.

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