US election 2016: What time should I go to bed?

A woman with a US flag sticker on her face Image copyright Getty Images

The good news about a US election night - or the disappointing news if you're hardcore - is that they are normally pretty fast.

If there is a decisive victory we should know the result by around 04:00 GMT (23:00 EST). Obama's first election in 2008 was done and dusted by 04:30 GMT (23:30 EST).

If you're trying to decide whether to stay up and join us through the night - or wake up to a result tomorrow, here's a guide to the races to watch and the timings.

The first statewide polls to shut are at 00:00 GMT (19:00 EST) and those are in Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vermont. The most interesting race to watch here is Virginia - a key battleground which was never called last time. Obama won it by just 3%.

Don't forget there is no declaring officer here, states are called on predictions the US networks make based on a combination of exit polls and sample ballots.

If Virginia is called early, then things get pretty exciting. It means there could be a more decisive winner than anyone was expecting.

Image copyright John Moore

Georgia is worth watching too. It hasn't been won by a Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1992. But the demographic is changing and becoming more racially mixed.

If this state isn't called early for the Republicans, it becomes more interesting too around 00:15 GMT (19:15 EST) we should see a slew of states turning red, giving Trump an early lead. Don't mistake this for an election result. It just means the polls that close early tend to be solid red Republican states of the south.

At 00:30 GMT (19:30 EST) we get polls closing in two of the most fascinating races of the election - Ohio and North Carolina.

No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. It has voted with the winner for more than 50 years. If this comes early, it would be astonishing. Don't expect to hear an Ohio result until much later.

North Carolina has been the most hotly contested state this campaign. Won once and lost once by Obama, it could go either way. It's the state where Democrats have accused Republicans of suppressing the African American vote.

At 01:00 GMT (20:00 EST) we get a huge rush of polls closing - including Florida, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire which are the ones to watch. Florida was never called last time, but early voting there means the counting could be done much more quickly. Polls on the eastern bit - Democrat voting Miami - will have shut an hour before.

The panhandle tends to go Republican. The Interstate 4 corridor - in other words the Disney World motorway - is where the battleground lies.

The tallies should even out at this point. A slew of the north east should come in for the Democrats here. More southern states should turn red.

Anything that is expected to be a safe state that doesn't come immediately after 01:00 GMT (20:00 EST) becomes more interesting. It might be too close to call. Or it may just be too early.

Image copyright Jeff Swensen

The western states and the central states close at 02:00 GMT (21:00 EST). Seventeen in all. We'll be watching the south western states of Arizona, New Mexico, even Texas here to see if the Latino vote has changed the nature of the election and the states have become more Blue.

The West Coast polls shut at 04:00 GMT (23:00 EST). Oregon, Washington state and California are core Democrat heartlands.

If Clinton is on 200 electoral college votes or more before 04:00 GMT (23:00 EST), you can pretty much assume she's crossed the 270 line at this point and won the election.

If she's below 170 - before 04:00 GMT (23:00 EST) - she's in trouble.

The winner is the first one to get 270 electoral college votes or more. They do not have to wait for their opponent to concede for the legitimacy of their win to be recognised.

Emily Maitlis is presenting BBC Newsnight's coverage of the US presidential election. You can follow her on Twitter, watch more of her reports, or read more from her on her blog.