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Tips for Healthy Sleep

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.


What you need to know about healthy sleep:

Healthy sleep, or sleep hygiene, is important to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Sleep affects almost every part of your body, including your brain, heart, metabolism, immune system, and mood. Good sleep habits can help you fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. Poor quality sleep or a long-term lack of sleep increases your risk for certain disorders. These include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and diabetes.

What you need to know about sleep stages:

The 2 main kinds of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM. You cycle through REM and non-REM many times during the night.

  • Stage 1 non-REM sleep is when you first fall asleep. This stage is short. Your brain waves slow and your body relaxes.
  • Stage 2 non-REM sleep is a period of light sleep before you move into deeper sleep. You spend the most time in this stage during the night. Your body temperature drops and your body relaxes even more.
  • Stage 3 non-REM sleep is a period of deep sleep that starts after stage 2. This stage is needed to feel refreshed in the morning.
  • REM sleep starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your eyes move from side to side. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing become faster. Most of your dreams occur during REM sleep. As you age, you spend less time in REM sleep.

How much sleep you need:

Each person needs a different amount of sleep. Your sleep patterns and needs change as you age. In general, school-aged children and teenagers need about 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. After age 60 years, sleep may be lighter and for less time, with more periods of wakefulness. Older adults may fall asleep and wake up earlier than they did at a younger age. Medicines or conditions, such as chronic pain, may keep older adults awake.

How to know you are getting healthy sleep:

  • Keep a 2-week log of your sleep. Write down what time you got up, what you did that day, and anything else that could affect your sleep. Keep a record of your sleep patterns, and any sleeping problems you have. Bring the record to your follow-up visits.
  • Ask someone who lives with you if they notice anything about your sleep. For example, maybe you snore loudly or stop breathing for short periods. Tell your healthcare provider if your legs twitch or you feel like you can't keep them still. Your healthcare provider may refer to you a sleep specialist or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Call your doctor if:

  • Someone has told you that you stop breathing when you sleep.
  • Your legs twitch and it keeps you from sleeping.
  • You begin to use drugs or alcohol to fall asleep.
  • You have questions or concerns about your sleep habits.

How to improve your sleep:

Your daily routines influence your sleep. Nutrition, medicines, your schedule, and what you do in the evenings can affect your sleep. Do the following to help improve your sleep:

  • Create a sleep schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Be consistent, even on weekends or when you travel. Do not go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • Set up a calming routine before bed. Soak in a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, or read a book.
  • Turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Try not to watch television or use any electronics in the bedroom.
  • Limit naps to 20 or 30 minutes, earlier in the day. Naps could make it hard for you to fall asleep at bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark. Turn on white noise, such as a fan, to help you relax.
  • Get up if you do not fall asleep within 20 minutes. Move to another room and do something relaxing until you become sleepy.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and food to earlier in the day. Only drink caffeine in the morning. Do not drink alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime. Do not eat a heavy meal right before you go to bed. Limit how much liquid you drink in the evenings and right before bed. If you are prescribed diuretics, or water pills, take them early in the day.
  • Exercise regularly. Daily exercise may help you sleep better. Do not exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.
    Walking for Exercise

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Bring your sleep log with you. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.