The sleep series: An intro to sleep opportunity

by | Feb 25, 2022 | Last updated Feb 25, 2022

If you’re like most people, you likely feel that you should get more sleep. Hold onto that feeling; it’s probably right! Sleeping more can do a lot of things for you: recharge your energy, decrease your stress levels, and help you feel your best. In fact, though sleep is often overlooked when it comes to weight loss and developing healthy habits, it can help a lot of different aspects of your health journey fall into place.

That’s why we created Noom’s sleep series—articles created to help you understand your current sleep habits and how you can improve them. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more about the science of sleep, what you can do to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep more reliably, and how you can supercharge your progress toward your health goals. 

Going to sleep early can be hard, especially after a long day of work. Maybe you feel too wired to lie down, or maybe you’re hesitant to call it a night because you haven’t had time to yourself. 

Or, maybe you feel like you are going to sleep early enough (kudos!), and you still find yourself feeling irritable and low-energy in the mornings, or not seeing progress toward your health goals as fast as you’d like. No fair, right?

The time you go to sleep (think: head initiating contact with pillow) isn’t usually the time you start sleeping. You probably already know that it takes some time to fall asleep. Once you start sleeping, you might also wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, or you might wake up 20 minutes before your alarm goes off. Ultimately, the time it takes for you to fall asleep or fall asleep again doesn’t count toward your total sleep (please accept our sympathy). 

That’s where thinking about sleep opportunity comes in. The term sleep opportunity was coined by UC Berkeley sleep scientist Matthew Walker, and it describes the number of hours you want to give yourself to sleep (7-9 hours is the sweet spot for most adults) plus the time you spend falling asleep and awake in the middle of the night. That being said, to get enough sleep, you should make sure you give yourself not just enough time to sleep, but also enough time to account for the time it takes for you to fall asleep and any interruptions you typically have. That’s where a possibly hard truth comes in: your ideal bedtime is probably earlier than you think. 

If you’re getting in your bed at midnight and setting an alarm for 7:00 am, you might think you’re giving yourself seven hours of sleep. But if it takes you 20 minutes to fall asleep, you wake up for another 15 minutes at 4:00 am, and usually open your eyes again about 10 minutes before your alarm goes off, you’ll be falling short of your goal—and likely feeling the effects the next day. In this case, your sleep opportunity would be 7 hours and 45 minutes, so you’d want to get in bed by 11:15 pm to get those seven hours.

Next up in our sleep series: How to get into a nighttime routine to fall asleep more easily.

If you’re looking to develop healthier habits today, check out Noom Weight or Noom Mood today.