The importance of a good sleep routine and how much sleep you need

When my first daughter was born the paediatrician explained the importance of a good sleep routine. It would be good for her health, and we’d be happier and healthier parents. It was a great piece of advice, perhaps the best piece of preventative health advice we have ever receive. Preventative health advice any of us could ever receive at any age.

Why is sleep so important?

There have been several studies highlighting the importance of sleep for a range of health reasons. For example less sleep has been correlated with increased BMI, waist circumferance, visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Reduced sleep reduces problem solving ability. Less sleep has also been linked to metabolic syndrome, cortisol dysregulation and impacted thyroid hormones. These is just skimming the surface of why sleep is important, but these factors alone are fairly compelling for getting enough sleep.

How much sleep?

Sleep requirements vary depending on life stage, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Newborns, infants and toddlers (0-2 years) need 14-17hrs
  • Preschool to school age (3-10 years) need 11-12hrs
  • Teens (11-18 years) need 9-10hrs
  • Adults (18-65 years) need 7-9hrs
  • Seniors (over 65 years) need 7-8hrs

Sleep routine is key.

If you think about our lives so much is governed by routine – these seasons, daytime/nighttime, calendars, time, the work week. Our bodies love routine and crave it. A good night’s sleep starts the moment you wake up. The choices we make throughout the day impact our quality of sleep. The food and drink we consume can either be calming and nourishing, or excitatory and depleting. Additionally how we move and think throughout the day impact our hormone production, influencing sleep. As we draw closer to bedtime our exposure to artificial light, stimulation, noise, temperature, mood and breathing all impact our ability to sleep.

If your goal is 8hrs of sleep a night and you need to wake up at 6am, you need to be sleeping by 10pm. Therefore you should start preparing for bed at around 9pm. This includes turning off screens, dimming lights and of course brushing/flossing teeth. Winding down with some deep breathing or a calming book can be good ways to mentally unwind from the day. You should be in bed, lights out around 9.30pm/9.45pm depending how long it takes you to get to sleep. Going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time is also essential for establishing a better routine.

Sleep lays the foundation for good health and is something I explore in depth in my book. Order your copy of A Life Less Stressed here