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Sleep plays a major role in brain health.

Good sleep helps you stay alert during the day and boosts your mood and thinking. It also helps you form and strengthen new memories and form new brain cells, and may play a role in clearing harmful toxins from your brain.

Most adults work best on 7–8 hours of sleep a night, but that varies from person to person. It’s also about the quality of the sleep you get: deep, undisturbed, regular sleep is better for you than interrupted sleep.

It’s normal for the way you sleep to change as you get older. Many people need less sleep than they did before. But everyone needs sleep that is good for them.

There are a few reasons people don’t get good enough sleep, including:

  • medical conditions
  • depression or anxiety
  • substance and medication use
  • daily sleep habits that aren’t regular
  • breathing problems.

If you get shallow or interrupted sleep, or have sleep apnoea, then over time, and without treatment, it can increase your risk of developing depression, cognitive problems and dementia.

However, with the right support and lifestyle changes, sleep disturbance can be managed.

What you can do

Here are some ways you can work towards better sleep:

Establish a sleep schedule

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day to set your body clock.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Avoid alcohol and caffeine near bedtime, put away tech, dim the lights, stretch a little. You’ll teach your body to recognize when it’s time for sleep.

Maintain a good sleep environment

Your bed should be comfortable and not too hot or cold. Remove distractions like a TV, radio or phone.

Be smart about napping

Try to keep them to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

Keep physically active

Physical activity helps regulate your body clock, feel sleepy, get deep sleep and reduce waking in the night.

Don’t force sleep

If you can’t fall asleep after a while, move to another area of the house. Sit quietly with no TV, computer, bright lights or snacks, and return to bed when you feel tired again.

Only use sleeping medications as a short-term solution

Follow the instructions on anything you take for sleep. Avoid taking them for more than two weeks. Talk to your doctor about your options for better sleep.

If you’re not happy with the quality of your sleep, talk to your GP. They will help you work out a way forward, so you can take care of your sleep, and take care of your brain.

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Last updated
15 December 2023