The Basics: Overview
It's important to get enough sleep. Sleep helps keep your mind and body healthy.
How much sleep do I need?
Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Make changes to your routine if you can't find enough time to sleep.
Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up.
If you often have trouble sleeping – or if you often still feel tired after sleeping – talk with your doctor.
How much sleep do children need?
Kids need even more sleep than adults.
- Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
- School-aged children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night.
- Preschoolers need to sleep between 10 and 13 hours a day (including naps).
- Toddlers need to sleep between 11 and 14 hours a day (including naps).
- Babies need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day (including naps).
The Basics: Health Benefits
Why is getting enough sleep important?
Getting enough sleep has many benefits. It can help you:
- Get sick less often
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
- Reduce stress and improve your mood
- Think more clearly and do better in school and at work
- Get along better with people
- Make good decisions and avoid injuries – for example, sleepy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year
The Basics: Sleep Schedule
Does it matter when I sleep?
Yes. Your body sets your “biological clock” according to the pattern of daylight where you live. This helps you naturally get sleepy at night and stay alert during the day.
If you have to work at night and sleep during the day, you may have trouble getting enough sleep. It can also be hard to sleep when you travel to a different time zone.
Get sleep tips to help you:
The Basics: Trouble Sleeping
Why can’t I fall asleep?
Many things can make it harder for you to sleep, including:
- Stress or anxiety
- Certain health conditions, like heartburn or asthma
- Some medicines
- Caffeine (usually from coffee, tea, and soda)
- Alcohol and other drugs
- Untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia
If you are having trouble sleeping, try making changes to your routine to get the sleep you need. You may want to:
- Change what you do during the day – for example, get your physical activity in the morning instead of at night.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment — and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.
- Set a bedtime routine – and go to bed at the same time every night.
The Basics: Sleep Disorders
How can I tell if I have a sleep disorder?
Sleep disorders can cause many different problems. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have trouble sleeping every now and then. People with sleep disorders generally experience these problems on a regular basis.
Common signs of sleep disorders include:
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Still feeling tired after a good night's sleep
- Sleepiness during the day that makes it difficult to do everyday activities, like driving a car or concentrating at work
- Frequent loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing or gasping while sleeping
- Itchy feelings in your legs or arms at night that feel better when you move or massage the area
- Trouble moving your arms and legs when you wake up
If you have any of these signs, talk to a doctor or nurse. You may need to be tested or treated for a sleep disorder.
To learn more about sleep disorders:
Take Action: Daytime Habits
Making small changes to your daily routine can help you get the sleep you need.
Change what you do during the day.
- Try to spend some time outdoors every day.
- Plan your physical activity for earlier in the day, not right before you go to bed.
- Stay away from caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda) late in the day.
- If you have trouble sleeping at night, limit daytime naps to 20 minutes or less.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. Alcohol can keep you from sleeping well.
- Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime.
- Quit smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes can make it harder for you to sleep.
Take Action: Nighttime Habits
Create a good sleep environment.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark. If there are streetlights near your window, try putting up light-blocking curtains.
- Keep your bedroom quiet.
- Consider keeping electronic devices – like TVs, computers, and smart phones – out of the bedroom.
Set a bedtime routine.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Get the same amount of sleep each night.
- Avoid eating, talking on the phone, or reading in bed.
- Avoid using computers or smart phones, watching TV, or playing video games at bedtime.
- If you find yourself up at night worrying about things, use these tips to help manage stress.
If you are still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up. Do something relaxing, like reading or meditating, until you feel sleepy.
Take Action: See a Doctor
If you are concerned about your sleep, see a doctor.
Talk with a doctor or nurse if you have any of the following signs of a sleep disorder:
- Frequent, loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Trouble waking up in the morning
- Pain or itchy feelings in your legs or arms at night that feel better when you move or massage the area
- Trouble staying awake during the day
Even if you aren’t aware of problems like these, talk with a doctor if you feel like you often have trouble sleeping.
Keep a sleep diary [PDF - 53 KB] for a week and share it with your doctor. A doctor can suggest different sleep routines or medicines to treat sleep disorders. Talk with a doctor before trying over-the-counter sleep medicine.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on sleep was adapted from materials from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging.
Michael Twery, Ph.D
Director, National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
Division of Lung Diseases
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute