How much sleep do you need?

Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it.

Good-quality sleep is more important than the amount of sleep that you get and it helps to keep you feeling healthy.

Sleep and you

The odd bad night's sleep can make you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won't harm your health. However, regular poor-quality sleep can have a huge effect on your health, putting you at risk of developing serious medical conditions and can affect your body, thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

Your body

Not sleeping well can have a huge effect on your health, putting you at risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. It can even shorten your life expectancy.

Your mood

Sleep and mood affect each other. Not getting enough sleep can take its toll on your mind and can even lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. People who don't get enough sleep might find they feel depressed, and people who are depressed may find they don't sleep well enough.

Watching your weight

Sleeping less can make you gain weight. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day are 30% more likely to be obese than those who sleep for 9 hours or more. This is believed to be because sleep-deprived people have lower levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and more ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).

Why you need sleep

When you sleep well you feel refreshed. The amount of sleep that you need depends on what is happening in your life. Good-quality sleep is important for your health and wellbeing, helping you to de-stress, concentrate during the day and learn new things.

Boost your body

Sleep gives you energy and boosts your immune system, helping your body recover from illnesses. While you sleep your body builds and repairs itself by making new tissue.

Rest your mind

Sleep helps your brain to recover and revive itself, helping it to make sense of the day, storing your memories and creating new ideas.

De-stress yourself

Sleep allows your mind to unwind and de-stress. This allows your mental and emotional wellbeing to be restored.

How to sleep well

There are simple things you can do to help you wind down and prepare for bed. Having a regular bedtime routine can help you drift off and, if you or your partner snores, there are ways to minimise snoring. If you smoke or drink, those habits might be stopping you from sleeping.

Create a relaxing environment

Have a bedtime routine where you wind down ready for sleep and go to bed at a set time. Remove distraction, like your TV, computer and phone, from your bedroom. Start small and try one change at a time.

Take control of worries

Do you have problems switching off and find yourself worrying non-stop when you get into bed? Many people find that their worries stem from concerns about money. You can get free advice on managing debt problems from charity Step Change, or check out these other ways to help you deal with everyday stresses.

Look at your lifestyle

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime as they can keep you awake. Being more active can help you sleep. Anything energetic, like cycling or running, should be done in the morning or late afternoon. Before bed try a relaxing exercise, like yoga. Stay away from large meals close to bedtime and, remember, chocolate contains caffeine.

Did you know?

Sleeping well can help boost your immune system and help you fight off illness.

Want to be your healthiest you?

As we get older, we have a higher risk of developing something dangerous like high blood pressure, heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Your NHS Health Check can spot early signs and help prevent these happening to you.

Find out more about NHS Health Check