Healthy Sleep: Everything You Need to Know

Understanding healthy sleep

In today’s fast-paced world, a good night’s sleep has become something of an indulgence. It’s fallen down our list of priorities behind work, chores, social time, and entertainment.

However, sleep shouldn’t be a luxury. It’s as important to your physical and mental health as food and water.

The body’s need for sleep is a relatively new research field. Scientists are looking into what happens to the body during sleep and why the process itself is so essential. We do know that sleep is necessary to:

  • maintain critical body functions
  • restore energy
  • repair muscle tissue
  • allow the brain to process new information

We also know what happens when the body doesn’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause a range of mental and physical problems, including impairing your ability to:

  • think clearly
  • focus
  • react
  • control emotions

This can result in serious problems in the workplace and at home.

Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the risk for serious health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. It can also affect your immune system, reducing your body’s ability to fight off infections and disease.

According to recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation, you should aim to get the amounts of sleep listed below:


Sleep recommendations

65 and up

7 to 8 hours

18 to 64 years old

7 to 9 hours

14 to 17 years old

8 to 10 hours

6 to 13 years old

9 to 11 hours

Younger children have even greater sleep needs. Many kids will reach their sleep goals with the help of naps.


Sleep recommendations

3 to 5 years old

10 to 13 hours

1 to 2 years old

11 to 14 hours

4 to 11 months old

12 to 15 hours

0 to 3 months old

14 to 17 hours

Certain factors influence how much sleep you’ll need. Genetics can determine how long you sleep. Your genes can also play a role in how well you respond to sleep deprivation.

Likewise, the quality of sleep you get when you’re catching Zzz’s is a factor in how much sleep you ultimately need each night. People who get good quality sleep without waking up may need a little less sleep than people who frequently wake up or have trouble staying asleep.

Each person has unique sleep needs. Learn more about what determines yours and how you can get more shut-eye. 

Sleep tips and tricks

Healthy sleep may come down to tricking your body (and your brain) into having better, longer, and more restorative downtime. Here are a few ideas for boosting sleep quality and sleep duration:

1. Establish a sleep routine

Having a regular bedtime and sticking to it can train your body to get better sleep. Stick to a schedule even on weekends, holidays, and vacations.

2. Kick Fido out of the room

You may adore sleeping with your fluffy family members, but research shows pet owners who let their animals sleep with them have more sleep disruption and get lower quality sleep.

3. Cut out caffeine

Even if you only drink it during the day, the stimulant may keep you from getting shut-eye at night. Don’t consume foods or beverages that contain caffeine any later than mid-afternoon. That includes:

  • tea
  • soft drinks
  • chocolate

4. Put down your phone

Vow to put away any and all electronics at least one hour before bed. The bright lights can stimulate your brain, which may make sleep more difficult.

5. Say no to a nightcap

If you sip on wine while watching TV, it’s time to break the habit. That’s because alcohol interferes with your brainwaves and natural sleep patterns.

Even if you sleep through the night, you won’t wake up feeling rested.

Sleep and insomnia

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. Around one-third of adults are believed to experience insomnia symptoms. Up to 10 percent have symptoms severe enough for them to be diagnosed with clinical insomnia.

If you experience insomnia, you may have difficulty falling or staying asleep. It can also cause you to wake up too early or prevent you from feeling refreshed after you sleep.


Temporary insomnia can be caused by life events, including stress, trauma, or pregnancy. Changes to your daily habits, such as starting a job with non-traditional work hours, can also lead to temporary insomnia.

Chronic insomnia, however, may be the result of an underlying disorder or condition. These include:

  • obesity
  • back pain
  • knee pain
  • anxiety or depression
  • menopause
  • substance misuse


Common treatments for insomnia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You’ll work with a therapist to treat underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Sleep hygiene training. A sleep expert will work with you to establish better sleep practices.
  • Treatment for underlying conditions. Your doctor will identify an issue that could be contributing to your sleep problem and seek to treat both conditions.
  • Medication. In the short term, some sleep medicines may help ease insomnia symptoms.
  • Lifestyle changes. Adjusting your daily schedule and activities may also prove beneficial. This includes avoiding caffeine and exercise near bedtime.

Sleep benefits

Good quality sleep can ward off many short-term issues such as fatigue and trouble concentrating. It can also prevent serious long-term health issues.

The benefits of good sleep include:

  • Reduced inflammation. Sleep loss may cause inflammation throughout your body, leading to possible cell and tissue damage. Long-term inflammation may lead to chronic health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Improved concentration. People who get adequate sleep are more productive and experience better performance, memory, and concentration than people who are chronically sleep deprived.
  • Eating fewer calories. Sleep loss and deprivation upset the chemicals responsible for regulating appetite. This can lead you to overeat and possibly gain weight, so getting enough sleep can help.
  • Decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Poor sleep increases your risk for chronic cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Healthy sleep reduces your risk.
  • Reduced risk of depression. Inadequate or low-quality sleep increases your risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. In addition, 90 percentTrusted Source of people who’ve been diagnosed with depression report low sleep quality.
  • A good night’s sleep is about much more than preventing bags under your eyes. Discover five more reasons to get a good night’s sleep.


For some, sleep comes as naturally as blinking or breathing. For others, getting enough quality sleep is a major challenge that requires lifestyle changes or medical intervention.

There are numerous reasons for sleep problems, ranging from short-term stressors to serious, long-term sleep disorders. If you have chronic sleep problems, talk to your doctor about finding a solution.


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  •  image:
  • Koulivand PH, et al. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. DOI: 1155/2013/681304

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