Good Sleep = Good Health

Sleep Awareness Week 2019

Sleeping well makes us feel better, more alert, energetic, and better able to concentrate and perform our daily tasks. Getting enough sleep each day is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing and to reduce your risk for ill-health.

Why Sleep is Important

It is well known that sleep is an important biological function essential for life. While we sleep many important functions take place that help the body in physical recovery and repair, support brain development, cardiac function and body metabolism, as well as support learning, improving memory and mood. Sleep is especially important for children playing an important role in growth and overall health and babies and children need much more sleep than adults.

Without enough sleep we are more likely to have problems with thinking, concentration, memory, reaction times and mood, all of which make it harder to perform our daily tasks and increase the risks of mistakes and accidents. Regular insufficient or poor sleep contributes to long-term health problems such as;

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Poor mental health.

For more information visit the Harvard sleep and disease risk page

Getting Enough Sleep

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, but on average adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each day. Babies and young children need much more sleep, but from young adulthood sleep needs remain relatively stable.

  • Babies– Newborns need at least 14 hours sleep per day which includes multiple sleep periods across the day.
  • Infants and Toddlers– At least 11-12 hours per day with day time naps continuing until two to three years.
  • Pre-schoolers:Approximately 10 to 13 hours
  • Primary School age –9 to 11 hours are recommended
  • Teenagers– Teenagers’ sleep times start to get later (and wake times as well) but they need about 8 to 10 hours sleep each day.
  • Adults– Most adults from 18 years to mid-60s need about 7 to 9 hours sleep
  • Older Adults– Sleep patterns can change for older adults who may need slightly less sleep – 7 to 8 hours. Waking in the night can be normal.

Some groups of people are at particular risk of not getting enough sleep, including shift workers, truck drivers, parents and teenagers.

For more information about sleep requirements across the life span visit the Sleep Health Foundation website

For information about sleep needs for babies and children see the Child and Youth Health website

Tips for Healthy Sleep

If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep there are a lot of things you can try to help:

  • Have a good routine – go to bed at night and get up in the morning at about the same time each day if possible;
  • Try to avoid sleeping in too much on weekends;
  • Get plenty of exercise – but not in the hours close to bed time;
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine, smoking or eating large meals in the 4-6 hours close to bed time;
  • Avoid using computers, hand-held devices (mobile phones, tablets) or other bright-lit devices for at least 1 hour prior to bed time;
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable for sleep – dark and quiet and not too warm or too cold;
  • Don’t watch TV or use computers and other electronic technology in bed;
  • If you tend to think about things in bed, writing a “worry list” before going to bed may help;
  • If you can’t get to sleep, get up and go to another room and read for a while and return to bed when you feel sleepy;
  • Try not to worry about it too much – sleep will come eventually.

For more information read the Sleep Health Foundation good sleep habits or the Road Safety Commission tips for good sleep for shift workers.