Sleep is as important as the food you eat and the air you breathe. Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, and safety. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function, which improves your ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. In children and teens, sleep helps support proper growth and development.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 50 to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders, and one in three adults do not regularly get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health. Although an increasing number of studies promote healthy sleep habits, many people are still sleep deprived due to competing priorities, busy schedules, and health complications.
How much sleep do I need?
The amount of sleep you need depends on several factors, including your age, lifestyle, and health. The general recommendations for sleep are:
- Preschool-aged children: 10-13 hours a day
- School-aged children: 9-12 hours
- Teens: 8-10 hours a day
- Adults (including older adults): 7-9 hours a day
Healthy Habits for Good Sleep
The NIH recommends the following steps to improve your sleep habits:
- Weather permitting, spend some time outside every day and engage in some type of physical activity.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even weekends. Establish a set bedtime and a bedtime routine for children.
- Avoid large meals and alcoholic drinks before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, and both substances can interfere with sleep. The effects of caffeine can last up to 8 hours, which means a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
- Use the hour before bed for quiet time and relaxation. Avoid strenuous exercise and bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. The light may signal the brain that it's time to be awake. Most phones, tablets, and computers have the option of a nighttime setting to reduce screen brightness.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark. A dim night light is fine, if needed.
It is also vital to get good quality sleep in order to feel rested when you wake up. If you often still feel tired after sleeping, talk with your healthcare provider. For more resources and information about healthy sleep habits, visit the Employee Resources health website or the NIH Sleep Health website.