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Colors VA: How much sleep do we need?

ROANOKE, Va. - Understanding Your Health – A Look at Sleep

This story might put you to sleep!

Provided by Jeremy A. Llavore, M.D.

Family Medicine, Carilion Clinic

Do you get enough sleep? On average, many Americans only get six hours of sleep per night or less. It is important to your health as it gives the body and brain time to recover and prepare for the next day.

The amount of sleep you personally need is unique to you. There is no “magic number” – sleep needs vary by age and among individuals. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep for good health and mental functioning. If you feel daytime drowsiness, even during boring activities, you probably haven’t had enough sleep. If interrupted, you may feel tired, become irritable and lose concentration during the day.

Not getting enough sleep can make it difficult for your brain to perform basic functions. In addition, your risk for several illnesses such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes increases due to lack of sleep.

To improve your sleep, consider doing the following: 

  • Get up at the same time every morning, regardless of when you went to sleep. Set a realistic bedtime and try to go to bed at the same time every night (it’s best to have a bedtime when you are usually sleepy).
  • Limit time in bed to eight hours, unless you are ill, and don’t take naps or lie down during the day.
  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only, and make it as quiet and as dark as possible. (While in bed, do not watch television, do paperwork or computer work, eat, etc.) 
  • Along those same lines, avoid using a smartphone while in bed. § Avoid exercise within four hours of bedtime. 
  • Avoid eating or drinking large amounts within three hours of bedtime, and don’t drink caffeine after noon (a light snack is OK).
  • No alcohol or cigarettes within four to six hours of bedtime
  • Sleep in a well-ventilated and humidified area (keep temperature in your bedroom cool, but not too cool or warm).
  • If you can’t sleep, go to another room and engage in a quiet, relaxing or boring activity (repeat this as often as necessary during the night).
  • If you get up during the night, return to bed only when sleepy. Don’t worry about losing sleep, you will make it up on the following night.

All of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but if you are having regular problems or difficulty staying asleep, talk with your health care provider. For more information, visit

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