Why Sleep is so Important
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support a healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur right away, or it can harm you gradually over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, the chart below, from sleepfoundation.org shows general recommendations for different age groups. The recommendations are the result of multiple rounds of consensus voting after a comprehensive review of published scientific studies on sleep and health.
|Age||Recommended Amount of Sleep|
|Infants & Newborns||16–18 hours a day|
|Preschool-aged children||11–14 hours a day|
|School-aged children||9 – 11 hours a day|
|Teens||8–10 hours a day|
|Adults (including the elderly)||7–8 hours a day|
To improve your sleep habits, it may help to:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. For children, have a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. Don’t use the child’s bedroom for timeouts or punishment.
- Try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Limit the difference to no more than about an hour. Staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends can disrupt your body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm.
- Use the hour before bed for quiet time. 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.
- Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a couple hours of bedtime. (Having a light snack is okay.) Also, avoid alcohol before bed.
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine (including caffeinated drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate). Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, and both substances can interfere with sleep. The effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 hours. So, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
- Spend time outside every day (when possible) and be physically active.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark (a dim night light is fine if needed).
- Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bed such as meditation.
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