How Much Sleep Do You Need?

It's a myth that we need less sleep as we grow older. So if you're getting fewer than seven hours of restful sleep a night or experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying illnesses, psychological conditions or side effects from medicine that may be causing your sleep troubles. Then, try these simple steps to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:

  • Develop a natural sleep pattern. Try to turn in and get up at the same times every day with the goal of waking up regularly without an alarm and going to bed at night only when you feel sleepy.
  • Get regular activity. Exercise makes it easier to fall asleep. But don't work out within a few hours of bedtime; doing so can actually hamper sleep.
  • Go outside at least 30 minutes a day. Exposure to natural light helps your body regulate melatonin levels.
  • In the evening, avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol and limit beverages. Heavy foods can cause indigestion, caffeine and alcohol can keep you awake or prevent deep sleep and lots of fluids means waking up for bathroom trips.
  • Limit daytime naps. Excessive napping may make it harder to fall asleep at night. Nap no more than an hour a day, and don't nap after 3 p.m.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool. Eliminate distractions like TVs or computers.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping and intimacy. If you can't fall asleep after about 20 minutes, get out of bed. Relax with a book or some soft music until you feel like nodding off.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 21 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 22 Jul 2013