Getting a good night's sleep sounds easy enough – until it’s not. Whether it’s due to longer hours at the office, increased social obligations, or difficulty sleeping through the night, getting by on less sleep may seem like the only answer. Over the long term, though, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep is so important – you spend about one-third of your time doing it – that “getting quality sleep is as essential to survival as food and water.”¹

Research also shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality of sleep, increases the risk of disorders, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and diabetes.² And as you age, your sleep needs change with you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following hours of shut-eye.³

Age Recommended Hours of Sleep
Newborn 0-3 months 14-17 hours
Infant 4-12 months 12-16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Toddler 1-2 years 11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Preschool 3-5 years 10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
School Age 6-12 years 9-12 hours per 24 hours
Teen 13-18 years 8-10 hours per 24 hours
Adult 18-60 years 7 or more hours per night
Adult 61-64 years 7-9 hours
65 years or older 7-8 hours

Falling a little short? No worries – check out these 5 sleep tips that’ll help put you on the path to better, deeper slumber-filled sleep, improving the quality of your waking life.

1. Power down your devices.

Banish electronics from your bedroom, especially those that emit blue light. It’s too easy to play on your mobile into the wee hours, or check one last email right before bed. Instead, create a space of peace and tranquility. When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Power down your devices and use heavy curtains or shades to block out natural lights from the windows, or invest in a nice sleep mask. Consider practicing relaxation techniques like meditation.

2. Be smart about napping.

While napping is great for catching up on loss sleep here and there, it’s not the ultimate solution. Think of naps as an in-a-pinch fix rather than a daily occurrence. Napping should also be limited to 15-20 minutes in the afternoon.

3. Exercise during the day, not too close to bedtime.

For optimal health results, exercise for 150 minutes per week, but be mindful of when you do it. Aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise a day and no later than a few hours before going to bed. Instead of rigorous activity, set a relaxing routine before bedtime. Consider taking a bath, doing light reading, or deep breathing exercises set to soothing tunes to clear your mind.

4. Be smart about what you eat and drink.

Something else that might be disturbing your sleep cycle: your diet. Take a deep look at what you’re eating and drinking – perhaps jot down your intake over the next week and assess. You’ll want to avoid big, heavy meals too late in the evening, as well as limiting caffeine at night.

5. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.

This is key. Train for good sleep by aiming to go to bed around the same time every day. Likewise, wake up at the same time. It’s tempting to hit the snooze button (over and over again) to squeak out just a little extra sleep. But it’s a bad habit that needs to be broken. Set your alarm for the time you actually need to get up.

Developing good sleep habits can be tough, but the rewards and health benefits are numerous. Remember, if you often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, see a doctor. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.