To understand why sleep is important, think of your body like a factory that performs a number of important functions. As you drift off to sleep, your body begins its night-shift work of recharging.
Learn more about sleep benefits, recommendations and our top sleep tips.
What are the benefits of sleep?
Sleeping helps you stay healthy because it gives your body the chance to:
- Heal damaged cells
- Recover from the day’s activities
- Boost your immune system
- Recharge your cardiovascular system
How much sleep do I need?
What’s considered to be a healthy night’s sleep varies by age.
Top questions about sleep answered
REM stands for rapid eye movement and NREM stands for non-rapid eye movement. NREM sleep comes first, followed by REM sleep. Then the cycle starts again.
The first three of the four phases are part of your NREM sleep. They can last between 5 and 15 minutes.
Stage 1: This is when your eyes are closed but it’s still easy to wake you up.
Stage 2: This is when you’re in a light sleep. As you prepare for deep sleep, your heart rate slows down and your body temperature drops.
Stage 3& 4: REM sleep typically occurs 90 minutes into your sleep and is the stage of sleep when you dream. Your brain is more active and your heart rate and breathing quicken. Adults can spend about 20% of their sleep in the REM stage while babies can spend about 50% of their sleep in this stage.
Both REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) serve as important phases in sleep and for different functions in your body.
REM sleep, which is when dreaming occurs, helps our mind process emotions and memories. It is vital for stimulating the brain for learning.
NREM makes up 75-80% of total sleep each night. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during NREM like tissue growth and repair. Also, energy is restored and hormones important for growth and development are released.
When you don’t get the sleep you need, you might find yourself:
Feeling drowsy, irritable and sometimes depressed
Struggling to concentrate and make decisions at work
Craving more unhealthy foods, which could cause weight gain
If you’ve been practicing good sleep habits and think you’re sleeping well but still feel extra tired in the morning, then you may have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Any problems with your sleep should be discussed with your doctor who may recommend you take a sleep test.
Four tips to help you get a good night’s sleep
It’s more than just getting to bed at a good time.
- Plan enough time for sleep. Once you know what time you need to get to bed, plan the rest of your schedule around it.
- Create consistent sleep habits. Follow a pre-sleep ritual for going to bed and waking up at the same time.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet and comfortable – especially your bed and pillow.
- Turn it off before bed. Watching television, reading, emailing and texting can ramp up your brain activity rather than relax it. Give yourself time to unplug.
Fun sleep facts
Adults sleep less than they should
75% of adults studied sleep less than the minimum of seven hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Women sleep longer than men
Men sleep for an average of 5 hours, 46 minutes, while women average 6 hours, 11 minutes.
Exercise is good for sleep
Any amount is helpful, but the optimal amount is 30 minutes, which leads to 14 minutes of extra sleep per night.
Three or fewer cups of coffee don’t notably affect sleep time, but four cups or more leads to 26 fewer minutes of sleep.
Mattress selection appears to make an average of 20 minutes difference of sleep per night.