Your Complete Guide to Healthy Sleep


As humans, we spend up to one-third of our lives asleep. Yet we often don’t understand what sleep is and how important it is for our overall health.

In this article we answer some of the most common questions about sleep, show you how important dreams are, and explain how and why we sleep the way we do.


What is sleep? Why do I need to sleep?


The truth is that while we know sleep is an essential biological process for humans and animals that affect almost every type of tissue and system in the body, we still understand very little about what it is and its purpose.

We do know that sleep is required to keep the brain, heart, lungs, and immune system functioning. Poor quality sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other disorders.

Sleep keeps your brain functioning and enables you to form neural pathways so you can learn and create new memories. Without quality sleep your mood deteriorates and you struggle to concentrate and respond to the world around you.

While you sleep, your brain and body are still functioning, completing all sorts of activities to keep your body working. Many scientists consider sleep to be a kind of “housekeeping” stage where your body undergoes important functions and removes toxins in the brain.


sleepezi sleep health

How much sleep do I really need?


When considering how much sleep you need, the most important factor to consider is your age. Throughout our lives we have different sleeping needs. The American National Sleep Foundation recently conducted a study into the amount of sleep needed for different age ground and have amended their daily guidelines to the following:

  • Newborns (0-3 months ): 14-17 hours.

  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours.

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours.

  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours.

  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours.

  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours.

  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours.

  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours.

  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours.

It’s important to remember these numbers are only a guideline. You need to consider your own circumstances. If you have health issues, are experiencing sleep problems, feel tired during the day or rely on caffeine to stay energised, you’re likely to have different sleep needs from a healthy person.


How do I fall asleep?


When it needs sleep, your body sends messages to your brain to make you feel tired. This biological mechanism is called homeostasis, and it reminds your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Every hour you’re awake, your drive to sleep grows stronger, and it’s because of this that after you’ve been awake for too long you’ll sleep much longer and deeper than a typical night.

Your body also has a natural clock (roughly 24 hours) that regulates your energy. This is called your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus in your brain and it’s what makes you feel energised in the morning and drowsy at night.

Thank your circadian rhythm for your ability to wake up in the morning without an alarm. Light and temperature regulate your circadian rhythm, which takes the approach of darkness as a signal to release melatonin to make your sleepy. You don’t need these outside cues for your circadian rhythm to function, however.

Anything outside of your regular cycle (jet lag, shift work, disrupted sleep, all-night partying) disrupts your circadian rhythms. This is why you feel tired, irritable, and struggle to concentrate if your normal sleep pattern is disrupted or you try to sleep with a lot of light in the room.


sleepezi teen sleeping


Is all sleep the same?


You won’t notice (because you’re asleep) but your sleep actually consists of four stages. They are: 

  • Stage 1: As you fall asleep your breathing and heart rate regulate, your muscles relax and your temperature falls slightly. Awareness of the external world fades away, but the slightest noise or movement could still wake you. If you wake up during Stage 1 you might not believe you were asleep at all. You experience Stage 1 for around 15 minutes as you fall asleep, so you’re only in this stage once per night (unless you wake up).

    • Stage 2: Your muscles relax even more and your eyes stop moving. You’re less aware of physical disturbances and it’s a bit harder to wake you. During Stage 2, your brain displays a lower frequency of electrical activity. We call this stage ‘light sleep’ and it will last for 20-30 minutes, but you’ll repeat Stage 2 several times during the night. You spend around ½ your sleep time in Stage 2.

    • Stage 3: This stage lasts for around 15 minutes and is a much deeper sleep. You’re completely relaxed and disconnected from the world around you. If someone wanted to wake you up they would have to make quite a lot of noise.

    • Stage 4: This is your deepest stage of sleep and lasts for around 15 minutes as well. It’s nearly impossible to wake someone in Stage 4 sleep. During this stage you get your most restful sleep. Stage 3-4 repeat several times during the night and you spend around 20% of your sleep time in this stages.

    • REM Sleep Stage: Your deep sleep ends abruptly. You go back to Stage 2 for a couple of minutes, and you’ll usually also shift position in bed. Now it’s time for REM Sleep to begin. This is the most interesting and mysterious sleep stage – your heart rate and breathing increase, your eyes move and dart around, your brain activity increases, and you dream. You return to REM sleep several times during the night and spend around 20% of your time there. You actually have several dreams per night, but you usually remember only the longest and last one, as that’s the one you have before you wake up.

    A single rotation through these stages is called a sleep cycle. We start a new sleep cycle every 80-110 minutes. As the night progresses, our deep sleep stages decrease in length, while our REM increases in length.

    During light sleep and deep sleep our bodies regenerate. REM sleep seems to function as a way for your brain to organise and process events and thoughts and memories, and decides what to keep and what to forget. The weird dreams we see are the result of our brains’ internal organisation.


    Does my sleep pattern change as I grow older?


    Yes. When you were a baby, you spent most of your time in REM sleep. After the age of four, REM sleep drops right back to about 20% of your sleep time. When you reach 60 years of age, your REM sleep drops back again, to about 15% of sleep time.


    sleepezi boy and dog 


    Why don’t I act out my dreams during REM sleep?


    By the time you reach REM sleep, your muscles are so relaxed your body is in a stage of atonia – a kind of temporary paralysis. This stops you from throwing yourself out of bed and acting out your dreams, even though your body feels as though it’s performing all the actions.

    Some people have sleep disorders or conditions that means atonia doesn’t occur. They act out their dreams, and this can be dangerous as they might injure themselves or someone else in the house.


    How do I make sure I have a good night’s sleep?


    Now you understand how important sleep is to your health and wellbeing, and you have an idea of how humans sleep and what healthy sleep looks like. The next step is ensuring you get the best night’s sleep possible so you perform at your best during the day.

    Because you aren’t awake to assess your own sleep patterns, it’s useful to know what good quality sleep means. According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you’re having quality sleep, you:

    • Take less than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

    • Wake up no more than once per night.

    • Stay awake for less than 20 minutes before falling back asleep.

    • Spend more than 85% of your time in bed actually sleeping.

    Because sleep is so attuned to your body’s habits and circadian rhythms, you can create habits that improve your ability to fall and stay asleep – this is called sleep hygiene. There are a number of ways you can improve your sleep hygiene, such as:

    • Creating a sleep routine. Get yourself to bed at the same time every night, and perform the same actions before bed each day – turning off the TV, taking a hot shower, reading a book, drawing curtains, or saying goodnight to family members helps your body to relax into restfulness.

    • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants, especially close to your bedtime. Caffeine keeps you alert and can limit your ability to settle into sleep. Alcohol, on the other hand, can help you get to sleep, but its properties mean you don’t get a good quality sleep and you’ll usually wake up several times.

    • Switch off the screen. Staring at a TV, computer, or phone screen before you sleep stimulates your brain and can keep you awake. The light can also trick your brain into thinking it’s not time for bed yet, so you end up staying up later. If possible, try to switch off devices an hour before you go to bed, and avoid using them in your bed itself.

    • Turning your bedroom into an optimum sleeping space. Remove all distractions from your bedroom, especially desks piled high with work and TV screens. Create a dark, cool, and quiet room to give your body environmental cues that it’s time to sleep.

    • Putting your pet outside. If your pets sleep on the bed and wake you up during the night, it’s time they had their own bed… in another room.

    • Eating dinner earlier. Eating less than two hours before bedtime can often lead to indigestion that keeps you awake. If possible, try to move your evening meal earlier in the day. If you’re hungry before bed, have a small snack that doesn’t disrupt your sleep, such as some fresh vegetables or a piece of cheese.

    • Avoid napping. Many people who nap during the afternoon find they struggle to sleep at night. Find other ways to manage your energy levels so you no longer nap during the day, and see if this has an impact on your sleeping habits.

    • Exercising… but earlier in the day. Getting at least 20 minutes of exercise every day will help burn excess energy so you’ll feel sleepier at night. However, because exercise releases the hormone cortisol – which promotes alertness – it’s a good idea to get it out of the way at least three hours before you go to bed.

    • Try a sleep remedy. Sleepezi offer a range of homeopathic sleep products made from 100% natural ingredients that help to stimulate sleep hormones, regulate circadian rhythms, relax your muscles, and enable you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

    • Seeking professional help. If you’ve practising good sleep hygiene and you’re still struggling to sleep, then you should speak to a doctor or health professional. There may be an underlying cause for your sleep problems that can be treated.


    Sleep is as essential to our existence as breathing. Without sleep, your body and mind would cease to function. By learning more about how and why you sleep and what good sleep actually looks like, you can create healthy sleep hygiene for yourself and your family, and approach your life well rested and ready for action.