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Q&A: Hatch Sleep Expert Dr. Jessee Dietch on Bedtime Best Practices

August 23, 2023

At Hatch, we’re serious about helping you get high-quality rest. Our line of sleep products like Rest+ and Restore 2 sunrise alarm clocks leverage scientifically-proven sleep strategies like gentle wake-ups and natural soundscapes to give you the sleep you need to succeed. To make sure we’re creating devices that really work, we design our products with the guidance and oversight of real-life sleep experts, like Dr. Jessee Dietch. 

In addition to being a Hatch Sleep Expert, Dr. Jessee Dietch is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Oregon State University where she directs the Sleep Health Assessment, Intervention, and Dissemination (SHAID) research lab. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist, board certified in behavioral sleep medicine. 

In this Q&A, Dr. Dietch gives her expert advice on getting consistent, high-quality sleep by creating good sleep habits, and explains that trying to fall asleep is actually the opposite of what you should do. Read on to find out why.  

Q&A with Hatch Sleep Expert Dr. Jessee Dietch

How much sleep should we actually be getting? 

Dr. Jessee Dietch: I know that people hear a specific number thrown around, like ‘you should always get 8 hours of sleep,’ but it's actually more of a complex answer than that. Sleep need is very individual – there is no one number that will work for everyone. I think of it like shoe size. Say the average shoe size is a 7. Does that mean everyone should wear a size 7 shoe? No! Some people need bigger or smaller sizes. Same thing with how much sleep people need. 

There was a consensus statement a few years ago that basically agreed that for most healthy adults, getting over 7 hours per night on a consistent basis is associated with the best health outcomes, so if someone really wants a number then that's what I tell them. However, I think it's best to go by your internal sense. How much sleep do you need to perform at your best and get through your day with energy without relying on tons of caffeine? That sleep need will probably change a bit throughout your life, and it could even change on different days. - you might need more sleep if you're recovering from an illness or injury, or if you had a really strenuous workout. So in that way I think it's much more accurate to let your internal sense of how rested you feel on a day-to-day basis guide you, and to give yourself an adequate opportunity for sleep so that you don't feel a huge amount of pressure to "perform" sleep in a narrow window. 

Is there such a thing as “too much sleep?” 

Dr. Jessee Dietch: Overall, I would say - not really. There is some evidence that people who have a longer sleep duration, say over 9 hours, have worse medical outcomes, but it's unlikely that sleeping "too much" is causing these outcomes. Instead, it's likely that people with more complicated medical conditions are more likely to sleep more. There are some sleep conditions that are associated with sleeping for a long time, called hypersomnolence disorders. In that case, the sleep disorder could be a problem that can be managed, so if someone is regularly sleeping for over 9 hours, or feels very sleepy during the day despite getting an adequate amount of sleep, they should be evaluated for a sleep or medical disorder. But in general, for a healthy adult who gives themselves enough time to sleep on a nightly basis, their body is pretty good at producing the amount of sleep they need and not "going over." 

What are some healthy sleep habits we can incorporate into our nighttime routines? 

Dr. Jessee Dietch: Sleep is a 24-hour process, so there are things you can do both at night and during the day to get better sleep! One of my top recommendations to support better sleep is to consider your light exposure. Our circadian system needs light input to function at its best, and it is an important factor in our sleep. So, a simple way of looking at it is to get bright light during the day, and keep things dark in the evening and night! Ideally getting outside and getting some sunlight during the day, but if you don't have that ability, then using a bright light box or glasses to amp up your light exposure would work too. In the evenings, it's best to have your lights dimmer, and to sleep in as dark of a location as you can manage. 

Another important thing that can benefit everyone's sleep is to create a "buffer zone" between the busy activities of the day and the relaxation that is necessary to makes space for sleep. The last hour or two before bedtime should be a time without strenuous mental or physical activities, that includes some pleasant or relaxing routines. 

Finally, it's important to strike a balance between making enough time for sleep, and not putting too much pressure or effort into sleep. Aim to make space for sleep to occur, but don't fret about a bad night here and there. Paying too much attention to sleep can sometimes have a reverse effect, where it makes sleep harder to come by. 

What about in the mornings? What’s an ideal time to wake up? 

Dr. Jessee Dietch: The ideal time to wake up is at a time that you've gotten enough sleep to perform well during the day, that allows you to make it to your first morning activity with enough time! There is no single time that works best for everyone. Some people perform their best in the morning, and they probably have an easier time getting out of bed to tackle the day. But some people, usually those who are night owls, find the morning to be a more challenging time. In this case, starting the day gradually can help them come to terms with wakefulness. So this doesn't mean snoozing the alarm clock a million times, but rather choosing a time to get up and do something enjoyable before starting the busy morning. Hatch products like Restore 2 can help to establish a consistent rise time, make the wakeup a little less painful, and give a moment to pause before jumping in to the day. 

 Any tricks for falling asleep faster or falling back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night? 

Dr. Jessee Dietch: Unfortunately, there are no quick hacks for this that are going to work for everyone. The good news is that establishing consistency in routine and having healthy sleep habits will, over time, support sleep quality. It's actually quite normal to wake up in the middle of the night, but if you have trouble falling back to sleep, then you might want to change some things. The best thing you can do in these times is to let go of sleep effort - that is, stop trying to sleep! Trying to sleep is likely to make it much harder to fall asleep. Instead, put your effort into the things you do during the day (like getting enough activity and bright light) and let go of that effort during the night. Instead, do something you enjoy doing until you feel sleepy, and then give sleep another chance.  

 As we’re getting back into the swing of things with school and kids activities, how can we help our little ones get the sleep they need? 

Dr. Jessee Dietch: Consistency and routine is the best thing you can do to support kids' sleep. Have a consistent bedtime and nap time routine, and give kids sufficient quiet time in the evening before bed to disconnect from the busy activities of their day too! 

Well, there you have it: Sleep tips right from our very own in-house sleep expert! For more on creating healthy sleep habits check for our blog post about building a bedtime routine that works for you. You can also learn more about Restore 2 to see how it can help you establish the sleep routine of your dreams.