When you sleep, your mind and body are still hard at work. For example, certain stages of sleep allow us to learn and remember. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep also helps us fight infection and prevent heart problems and diabetes. If you are managing a health condition, sleep can help keep you strong and functioning at a higher level. Having enough sleep helps lower stress, improve your mood, and keep your weight healthy.
Over time, lack of sleep can put you at risk for chronic health issues, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. The good news is you can develop new habits to improve your sleep.
How much sleep do you need?
Not everyone has the same sleep needs, so try to keep track of how you feel during the day. If you find it hard to do simple tasks or stay alert, you may need more sleep. Here are basic guidelines for different age groups:
- Infants: Newborns sleep up to 17 hours a day. As they grow, they need between 12 and 16 hours of sleep a day (including naps).
- Children 1 to 2 years old: Need 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day (including naps).
- Children 3 to 5 years old: Need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep a day (including naps).
- Children 6 to 12 years old: Need between 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day.
- Teenagers: Need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a day.
- Adults: By age 20, sleep needs range from 7 to 9 hours each night.
- Older adults: People 65 and older need about 7 to 8 hours each night.
Healthy habits for better sleep
Sleep loss is often a result of poor sleep habits, illness, or sleep disturbances. Your bedroom also might not have the ideal sleeping conditions. It may be too bright, too warm, or too noisy. Here are tips to help you sleep better through the night:
- Create a sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, even on the weekends. Try not to take naps after 3 p.m. or for longer than an hour.
- Work out early. Give your body at least two hours to relax before bedtime.
- Do your best to skip or limit the following:
- Caffeine: Even when consumed six hours before bed, it could reduce sleep time by one hour.
- Nicotine: It stimulates the body, which disrupts sleep quality and causes you to wake at night.
- Alcohol: A drink may make you feel sleepy, but it prevents deep sleep.
- Large meals and drinks: Eatingtoo much food at night can cause indigestion and prevent sleep. More drinks also mean more trips to the restroom.
- Talk to your doctor about certain medicines. Certain heart, blood pressure, asthma, and cold medicines can delay or disrupt sleep, so ask your doctor about your options.
- Relax before bedtime. Try listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
- Go outside during the day. At least 30 minutes of natural sunlight a day can help you sleep better at night.
- Do something if you can’t fall sleep. After 20 minutes, do something relaxing, like reading a book, until you feel tired. Stay away from smartphones, TVs, and tablets, which emit blue light and can keep you awake.
Talk to your doctor
Even with good sleep habits, it may still be a struggle to have enough quality rest. Your doctor can recommend steps you can take or arrange for a sleep study to find out if you have a sleep disorder.
Something as simple as sleep can really make a huge difference in your health.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: Sleep and Chronic Disease (accessed March 2021)