Getting enough sleep
Information and tips about getting enough sleep and having a healthier sleep.
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.
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;
For more information visit the Harvard sleep and disease risk page.
Sleep is a state of reduced consciousness, but one which we can be easily wakened. When we sleep our brains remain active, although activity levels vary throughout the course of sleep along with other physiological functions, such as body temperature, breathing and heart rate.
Our sleep is controlled by two interacting systems:
If our circadian rhythms are disrupted it can interfere with our sleep. For example, Jet Lag occurs when our circadian rhythms are disrupted by long-distance flying.
Sleep is divided into different periods of light and deep sleep across the night. These occur in cycles of about 90 minutes. Each cycle includes periods of non-REM sleep, ranging from light to deep sleep, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep when our brains are more active and dreams occur.
For more information read the Sleep facts and hygiene fact sheet (PDF 62KB).
Sleep cycles are different for older and younger people. Sleep cycles can be affected by a number of things such as disruption to your body clock (circadian rhythms), too much day-time napping, stress, exercise or too much exposure to bright light prior to usual bed time.
For more information visit the Harvard sleep patterns page.