The Importance Of Sleep

“Sleep is vital for overall health. Ensure that you are on the correct sleep path with these simple tips.”

Sleep is essential – It is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing, and is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Sleeping helps us to recover from mental and physical exertion. Sleep and health are strongly related, as poor sleep can increase the risk of having poor health, and, poor health can make it harder to sleep. Sleep disturbances can be one of the first signs of distress and can lead to increased anxiety and depressive symptoms.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following amount of sleep per age group:


Newborn 0-3 Months 14-17 Hours
Infant 4-12 Months 12-16 Hours
Toddler 1-2 Years 11-14 Hours
Preschool 3-5 Years 10-13 Hours
School Age 6-12 Years 9-12 Hours
Teen 13-18 Years 8-10 Hours
Adult 18-60 Years 7 or more Hours
  61-64 Years 7-9 Hours
  65 Years and Older 7-8 Hours


Just as important as the quantity of sleep is the quality of sleep. Sleep quality is defined as how well you sleep, and you know if you have good sleep quality if:

  • You fall asleep soon after getting into bed, within 30 minutes or less;
  • You typically sleep straight through the night, waking up no more than once per night;
  • You’re able to sleep the recommended amount of hours for your age group;
  • You fall back asleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up; and
  • You feel rested, restored, and energized upon waking up in the morning.

Sleep is especially challenging in shift-based work, so it is even more important to make sure we get the right amount of good quality sleep. For many of us, improving sleep may be a case of making small lifestyle or attitude adjustments.

There are four simple things to consider:

  • Health: It is important to get health concerns addressed both for helping physical symptoms and for addressing any worrisome thoughts that may keep you awake.
  • Environment: Where you sleep is important. Watching TV, playing with phones or eating in bed 30 minutes before sleeping can negatively affect quality of sleep. Temperature, noise level and lighting all play a part in determining our sleep quality. You should aim for an environment of around 18°C and a dark, quiet room. Soothing smells, such as lavender, can also have a positive effect.
  • Attitude: Sleep is easier when you are relaxed and free of concerns. Relaxation techniques, a warm bath or a warm milky drink, may help. It may be tempting to turn on the TV or phone screen but this may be stimulating and make it harder to nod off.
  • Lifestyle: What you eat or drink can affect sleep. Stimulants like caffeine can make it harder to sleep, and a heavy or sugary meal close to bedtime can make sleep uncomfortable. Alcohol might seem to help you get to sleep, but it reduces the quality of sleep later. Exercise during the day is also a good way to aid sleep, but exercise releases adrenaline so exercising during the evening may be less helpful.

If you keep having sleep problems, it’s possible there may be an underlying issue, which you should discuss with your doctor. Remember that sudden, unexplained changes in sleep patterns are a concern to raise with your doctor. 

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