A sleep doctor weighs in on the benefits of being reminded to hit the hay.

By Cassie Shortsleeve
April 16, 2017
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If we wake up every morning (okay, most mornings) to an alarm, why don't we go to bed to one? That's the question companies like Apple are asking. The tech giant just unveiled a new iPhone feature called "Bedtime," which is just what it sounds like: an alarm clock for bedtime. The feature allows you to put in what time you wake up in morning, how many hours of sleep a night you need, and then it gives you a bedtime. You can choose for the alarm to go off right when you'd like to hit the hay or you can have it go off up to an hour beforehand.

At the end of March, Westin Hotels unveiled something similar-this time for sleepy travelers: a "bedtime call," which works much like a wake-up call, where a hotel staff member calls your an hour or so before bed to remind you to start winding down.

But can an alarm *really* help you score more sleep? And should we all be swearing by one?

"I think it's a great idea," says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., a sleep specialist and author of the new book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. "It goes back to the idea of mindfulness."

Here's what he means: Come evening-especially for those of us who are night owls, or those of us who decide to go through every little thing we need to do the next day in our heads (guilty!)-an alarm clock serves as a reminder to (at the very least) start the bedtime process. Without it, it's easy to slip into a Netflix binge or an impending work deadline right from the comfort of your covers.

In an ideal world, Winter says you would go to bed right when your bedtime alarm sounds, but at the very least, the nighttime alarm should signal a time to start preparing for bed, he notes. "If your bedtime alarm goes off at 11 p.m. and you're not quite able to get to bed, maybe you turn off of a bunch of lights and put your devices away," he says. After all, bright interior lights, the devices we swear by all day long, and stressors from the day behind aren't exactly calming for your brain. Building these strategies into your evening routine will help build good sleep habits that (hopefully) make falling asleep easier in the future. Plus, the alarm might make some of your bad habits come to light, as you'll really start to notice if you're staying up 30 minutes later than you intended to (no hitting snooze!). Consider it a bedtime call that's a wake-up call too.