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Why is sleep important?

Sleep is important for good health and wellbeing throughout your life. While you sleep, your body works to keep you healthy. Sleep helps with cell repair, brain development, learning and memory. It helps clear out toxins that build up in your body during the day and restores energy. Sleep also helps with cardiovascular health, metabolism, inflammation and mental health.

Learn more about how much sleep you need and what you can do to improve your sleep.

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How much sleep do you need?

The amount of sleep you need depends on your age. For example, newborns need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep each night and it’s normal for adults to need six to 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Your quality of sleep is just as important as the amount of sleep you have each night.

One way to tell if you’re getting enough quality sleep is if you feel refreshed rather than tired or foggy throughout most of the day.

It’s normal to feel tired some days, or for part of the day. This may be due to workload, stress and general health rather than how much sleep you’ve had.

Regular routines and sleeping patterns help you to sleep well. Recent research suggests that health is associated with regular sleep rather than the amount of sleep.

How to improve your sleep

The most important thing you can do to improve your sleep is try not to worry about it. When you try too hard to sleep, it can make your sleep worse.

There are many things you can do to improve your sleep.

Morning light and evening darkness

Your sleep may improve if you get lots of light during the day and dim the lighting in the lead-up to sleep.

Limit caffeine

Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink (e.g. cola, tea, coffee and chocolate). Try caffeine-free herbal teas instead.

Avoid eating late at night

Avoid eating heavy meals late at night. Give your body about two hours to digest your dinner before going to bed.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, but it may also wake you up during the night. Limit alcohol to a maximum of two standard drinks each day and stop drinking three to four hours before sleep. Have at least two alcohol-free days per week.

Regular physical activity

Get regular physical activity during the day. It’s better to do light exercise, especially within four hours of going to bed.

Consistent routines

Try to have consistent day and evening routines to improve your sleep at night. For example, consistent mealtimes, exercise, bedtimes and waking times. If you feel stressed or not sleepy, don’t get into bed until you’ve wound down a bit.

Relax

Do relaxing activities before bed. It’s important to use relaxation techniques that work for you (e.g. breathing, imagery activities, listening to music). The more you practise these techniques, the more effective they’ll be.
You may find it relaxing to read in bed before you go to sleep. This can be a healthy sleep aid, as long as it’s only for a short time.

Bed is for sleep and sex

Save bed for sleep and sex. Try not to watch TV, use your phone, work or worry in bed. Only be in bed, under the covers, when you feel tired and ready for sleep.

Avoid checking the time

Turn any clocks away from view so you don’t clock-watch during the night.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep

If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do a quiet, relaxing task in another room (with dim light) until you feel tired. This may reduce your feelings of stress and frustration.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

1
Daniel P Windred, Angus C Burns, Jacqueline M Lane, Richa Saxena, Martin K Rutter, Sean W Cain, Andrew J K Phillips, Sleep regularity is a stronger predictor of mortality risk than sleep duration: A prospective cohort study, Sleep, 2023;, zsad253, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsad253
2
Chaput JP, Dutil C, Featherstone R, et al. Sleep timing, sleep consistency, and health in adults: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2020;45(10 (Suppl. 2)):S232-S247. doi:10.1139/apnm-2020-0032
Last updated: 
01 February 2024
 | 
Last reviewed: 
27 November 2023

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