Sleep is important for good health and wellbeing at all ages and stages of your life.
- Getting enough quality sleep helps support healthy brain functioning and physical health.
- In children and teenagers, sleep is also important for growth and development.
- Not getting enough sleep, or having poor quality sleep, can affect how you think, behave and get on with other people.
- Ongoing poor sleep can increase your risk of some health conditions and affect your mental health.
- Most adults need around 7–9 hours of sleep each night. If you feel tired during the day, you might need to sleep more.
How much sleep do you need?
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, with babies needing a lot more sleep than adults.
|Age||Recommended hours needed per night|
|Babies 0–3 months||14–17|
|Infants 4–11 months||12–15|
|Toddlers 1–2 years||11–14|
|Pre-school 3–4 years||10–13|
|Adults up to 64 years||7–9|
|Adults 65 years and over||7–8|
Some people naturally sleep slightly more or slightly less than these recommended hours. Body clocks also vary. Some people are nightingales, rising early in the morning, while others are night owls, staying up till all hours.
Teenagers need lots of sleep
Getting enough sleep is especially important for growing teens. Teenagers tend to sleep late, and getting up early for school or work can put them at risk of being chronically sleep-deprived.
- Lack of sleep can cause problems with learning, memory and concentration.
- Without enough sleep, teens may be more susceptible to acne and other skin problems.
- Fatigue can cause aggression and irritability toward others, which can cause problems with family, friends and relationships.
- Lack of sleep can lead to overeating, and eating more unhealthy foods.
- Fatigue can make teens more likely to use nicotine and caffeine to stay awake.
- Tired teens may be more susceptible to illness.
Women’s sleep patterns change
Women’s changing levels of hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, can be responsible for different sleep patterns throughout each month and over your lifetime. Periods, pregnancy and menopause can all affect how well you sleep. It helps to know how these things can interact with other factors, like lifestyle and environment.
- Exercise can lessen the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and help you sleep more deeply.
- Make sure you finish exercising at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
- Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
- Quit smoking – nicotine can lead to broken sleep and raises your risk of getting cancer and heart disease.
- Plan your meal times so you don’t overeat late at night.
- Make your bedroom a relaxing haven – keep it dark, cool and quiet.
- Make sure bed linen and pillows are comfortable.
Older adults sleep less soundly
Adults tend to sleep earlier, and by around age 50, most start to experience lighter, more disturbed sleep.
As you get older, the time you spend in deep sleep falls and the time in light sleep increases. Your sleep tends to be interrupted by periods of wakefulness, meaning that you lose increasing amounts of both REM sleep and light sleep. Older people also fall asleep earlier in the evening than younger people and wake up earlier as a result.
Although many older people have sleep difficulties, these are not necessarily a normal part of ageing.
How can I tell if I'm getting enough sleep?
If you’re feeling sleepy during the day, you may not be getting enough sleep. After several nights of getting less sleep than you need, your body builds up a ‘sleep debt’ that you have to ‘repay’ by sleeping longer than usual.
Insomnia may be due to medical conditions or medicines that disrupt sleep, so if you’re having trouble sleeping at any age it’s best to see your doctor for a thorough evaluation.
- How much sleep do you really need? Sleep Health Foundation, Australia