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Sleep Cycle Calculator

Created by Gabriela Diaz
Reviewed by Steven Wooding
Based on research by
Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, DonCarlos L, Hazen N, Herman J, Katz ES, Kheirandish-Gozal L, Neubauer DN, O'Donnell AE, Ohayon M, Peever J, Rawding R, Sachdeva RC, Setters B, Vitiello MV, Ware JC, Adams Hillard PJ. National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.; Sleep Health; March 2015See 1 more source
Shen, X., Wu, Y. & Zhang, D. Nighttime sleep duration, 24-hour sleep duration and risk of all-cause mortality among adults: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies; Scientific Reports; February 2016
Last updated: Jan 18, 2024


This sleep cycle calculator will help you find the best time to sleep and wake up to achieve a complete number of sleep cycles to feel well-rested throughout the day.

Quality sleep is essential to good health, and understanding the dynamics of sleep cycles is an easy way that can help improve your sleep time. Sleep cycles comprise 90-minute intervals where you progress through the different stages of sleep, from light to REM sleep.

If you'd like to learn more about this subject, then you might want to keep reading to find out:

  • Exactly what a sleep cycle is;
  • How long a sleep cycle is;
  • What the sleep cycle stages are;
  • How to calculate the best time to sleep and wake up; and
  • How to calculate a sleep cycle using this tool.

Let's dive deep into the Zzz's! 💤

What's a sleep cycle? – How long is a sleep cycle?

Going to bed is not only about putting on your pj's, lying down, and closing your eyes until you wake up the following day. While we're sleeping, our bodies and minds rest and regenerate. To do so, we go through 90-minute-long sleep cycles, repeated throughout the night.

Each sleep cycle has 4 different stages of sleep, and the time required to complete these 4 stages is known as the sleep cycle. During each cycle, we go from light to deep sleep, then back to light sleep, and finally enter a dream state known as the REM cycle.

💡 Although 90 minutes is the average sleep cycle length, some studies show that our sleep cycles differ, indicating values between 80-120 minutes, depending on our circadian rhythm.

What are the sleep cycle stages?

If you want to learn more about what happens while we sleep, you're on the right path. In this section, we'll go through the four stages that make up a sleep cycle.

As we mentioned, the sleep cycle is divided into four stages. Each of them is characterized by different brainwave frequencies and eye and muscle movements. This allows us to group the stages into two categories:

  • Three Non-REM (NREM), stages 1, 2 and 3; and
  • One Rapid Eye Movement (REM), or stage 4.

Let's take a closer look at the peculiarities of each of these stages:

  • Stage 1, a.k.a. NREM1, is the lightest sleep phase. You may experience involuntary muscle contractions and other random movements during this stage. The eye movement slows down, and brain waves begin to slow down. This phase lasts between 1 to 7 minutes, and waking up is quite easy.

  • Stage 2, or NREM2, is a light sleep. In this phase, your body is more relaxed, and you may start to experience sensations such as floating and involuntary movements. The eye movement stops, and brain activity slows. This stage lasts 10 to 25 minutes and is more difficult to be awakened. If you're awakened during this stage, you may feel disoriented.

  • Stage 3, also known as NREM3, deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. This is the stage in which the body and mind recover, body tissue is repaired, your body builds bone and muscle, your heart rate is at its slowest, and your brain waves slow even more. This stage can last 20 to 40 minutes and is difficult to wake up from, but if you do, you'll feel dizzy and disoriented.

  • Stage 4, or REM, is the final and the most active phase, with the brain wide awake. During this stage eyes move rapidly, your heart rate increases, you experience vivid dreams, and your arms and legs become paralyzed. The duration of this stage gets longer as we complete each sleep cycle. The first REM can last around 10 minutes, while the last can endure for up to an hour. Being awakened during this stage can impact your mood.

Image with definition of sleep stages.

Using the sleep cycle calculator

In this section, we’ll show you how to calculate the best time to sleep and wake up using the sleep cycle calculator:

  1. First, in the Time to fall asleep field, write down how long it takes you to fall asleep. The calculator shows 15 minutes as default.

  2. After that, select the time you need to wake up from the Waking up time drop-down menu.

  3. Finally, the calculator results will show you when you should go to bed based on your input information.

    Take note that these wake-up timings are calculated to span whole sleep cycles.

For instance, let’s imagine it takes you 8 minutes to fall asleep, and you need to wake up at 7:00 am. According to this information, to complete 5 sleep cycles (7 h 30 min), you must go to bed by 11:22 pm.

🙋 Click on the Advanced mode button to change the sleep cycle's length.

More sleep calculators!

So you're a sleep enthusiast who's obsessed with everything sleep-related? Then you might want to check at some of our other sleep-related tools:

FAQ

How long is a sleep cycle?

On average, a sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes and varies as we grow. For example, a child’s sleep cycle takes between 40-50 minutes; by the time they’re five years old, the sleep cycle has matured and lengthened to 90 minutes.

How many sleep cycles do I need per night?

It depends. Our genetics determines the number of sleep cycles we need per night. On average, people need 5 cycles (7 h 30 m) of sleep per night. However, some people only need 4 cycles (6h), while others need 6 cycles (9h) of sleep per night.

What time should I go to bed to complete 6 sleep cycles?

To wake up at 6:30 am, you'd need to go to bed at 9:15 pm to complete 6 sleep cycles. To obtain this result:

  1. Convert the number of sleep cycles into hours. Considering 90-minute cycles:

    6 sleep cycles = 9 hours

  2. Consider how long it takes to fall asleep and add it to the previous result. On average, it takes 15 minutes. This totals 9 h 15 min.

  3. Work back 9 h 15 min from your desired wake-up time. For our example, this is 9:15 pm.

Gabriela Diaz
What time should I go to sleep?
Time to fall asleep
minutes
Waking up time
7:00 AM

To wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, go to sleep at:
  - 9:45 PM (6 cycles, 9h of sleep) - recommended for long-sleepers,
  - 11:15 PM (5 cycles, 7h30m of sleep) - recommended for average-sleepers,
  - 12:45 AM (4 cycles, 6h of sleep) - recommended for short-sleepers,
  - 2:15 AM (3 cycles, 4h30m of sleep),
  - 3:45 AM (2 cycles, 3h of sleep),
  - 5:15 AM (1 cycle, 1h30m of sleep).

If you go to sleep NOW, you should wake up at:
  - 3:09 AM (6 cycles, 9h of sleep) - recommended for long-sleepers,
  - 1:39 AM (5 cycles, 7h30m of sleep) - recommended for average-sleepers,
  - 12:09 AM (4 cycles, 6h of sleep) - recommended for short-sleepers,
  - 10:39 PM (3 cycles, 4h30m of sleep),
  - 9:09 PM (2 cycles, 3h of sleep),
  - 7:39 PM (1 cycle, 1h30m of sleep).
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