How 9pm Became The New Boast Bedtime

Gen Z is notorious for eschewing alcohol and nights out. And it may be because they’re turning in early. Should we all be following suit?

9pm bedtime

by Web Editor |
Updated on

Last month, a study of more than two million adults in the US found that the average bedtime for Gen Z and Millennials is getting earlier, shifting from 10.18pm in January 2023 to 10.06pm in January this year for those aged 18-34. Among Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) in particular, this fondness for an earlier bedtime is becoming even more popular, with many reporting that they are now in bed by 9pm – or earlier.

So much has already been written about Gen Z going out less, drinking less, having sex less – surely they can’t be tucked up in bed by 9pm now too? When I DM my 23-year-old sister-in-law to find out (because no one under 25 uses WhatsApp), she replies, ‘Reading this having been in bed since 8.30.’ Meanwhile I, a 34-year-old Millennial, was just about to sit down to dinner.

For Hollywood’s Gen Z, it seems to be the case. Millie Bobby Brown, Hailey Bieber and Zendaya have all said they’re usually in bed by 9pm. Nicola Peltz Beckham told Vogue that she and Brooklyn are tucked up by a frankly ludicrous 8pm. But the 20- somethings I spoke to were the same: Maya, 22, goes to bed at 8pm, while Emily, 22, ‘stays up’ until 10pm. ‘Sometimes, I’ll scroll on social media, but mostly I try to turn my phone off so I can just go straight to sleep.’

So when did this become the norm? ‘Getting a lot of sleep is definitely the new wellness trend – it’s a flex,’ says author and activist Scarlett Curtis, 28. ‘Ten years ago, getting as little sleep as possible was proof that you were a #GirlBoss who had too much going on in your life to bother with something like sleep. Now all the cool, put-together girls sleep 9pm to 7am. As a terrible insomniac, I literally have no one to text after 9.30pm.’

A big part of this is the rise of curating the perfect #nightroutine, which now has over a million posts on TikTok. Although Gen Z might be going to bed at 9pm, they’re not necessarily sleeping – look up the hashtag and you’ll see videos with pre-bed rituals that can take up to three hours.

A typical #nightroutine starts with: unplugging all devices, tidying your space, lighting a candle, light yoga, skincare, journalling, reading, mindful meditation – followed by an adaptogenic hot chocolate or a homemade #sleepygirlmocktail. For Gen Z, getting ready for bed can take just as long as getting ready for a night out.

But it’s not just the wellness girlies with early bedtimes. In a recent YouGov survey, 60% of men aged 16 to 24 said their life would be improved by more sleep, versus 51% of 16-24 women. ‘I know so many boys who are obsessed with getting eight hours,’ says Curtis. ‘My 19-year-old brother is working his first job and is in bed, lights out, by 9pm and up at 5am. It’s extraordinary.’ Alex, 26, agrees. ‘Midweek everyone hibernates. If I meet up with mates it is always an early start. Like a statement of intent that this won’t turn into a big night.’

The restaurant industry has noticed the same: research by Yelp last year found that reservations for 7pm and later had fallen compared to 2019, whereas bookings for 5-6pm had increased by 3%. ‘Those in their late-twenties are booking earlier slots even on Saturdays,’ note Rick and Katie Toogood, owners of the Prawn on the Lawn restaurants in London and Padstow. ‘They usually start coming in for the 5pm sitting.’

The behaviour shift makes sense. Covid hit when Gen Z was about to start university or their first job – peak all-nighters territory – and now real life has resumed, but with a cost of living crisis (or the ‘cozzie livs’, as they call it). So if spending three hours exfoliating your face makes you feel better, wouldn’t you do it too? Or, as my sister-in-law put it, ‘Cozzie livs means we have no money – but phone time in bed is free.’

What your bedtime says about you...

19.30: You’re literally Mark Wahlberg.

21.00: You’re a #nightroutine hypebeast with all the merch. Think Drowsy silk eye mask and Dr Teal’s sleep spray.

00.30: You meant to go to bed at 11pm but stayed up scrolling old friends on Facebook.

01.30: You’ve biohacked an optimum sleep schedule based on your sleep cycles. You will rise again at 4am. You may or may not be being investigated for crypto fraud.

03.00: You’re a party legend!

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