Regular restorative sleep is vital to good physical and mental health. Here’s what you need through the decades to get it

How much sleep do I need? You may have heard all sorts, from six hours to nine hours.

But here’s how much works for you, and how best to get to sleep in every decade.

how much sleep do I need

Credit: Getty Images

How much sleep do I need? 

This varies from person to person and our stage of growth and development. 

The national recommended average is seven-and-a-half hours, but quality is more important than quantity,  says expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan. ‘Getting six hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep is far better than seven or eight hours of broken sleep.’

Our night-time is divided into five 90-minute cycles – four of light to deep sleep phases and one of REM (rapid eye movement). ‘The healing process takes place during the deep sleep,’ says Dr Ramlakhan. 

But it can be disrupted by things such as snoring – a very common problem, but one that we’re often reluctant to address. Speak to your GP, as it may be a sign of sleep apnoea, a serious disorder, which can be treated on the NHS.

Try… Kally Sleep’s Anti-Snore Pillow (£29.99, kallysleep.com). 

It’s designed to keep your head in a position to open up your airways and reduce snoring by 50%.

MORE: How your gut health can have an impact on your weight, mood and more

In your 40s

This can be a hectic decade, juggling work and family worries, while managing your time between young children and ageing parents.

‘Most women flop into bed after a busy day without giving their brains or body a chance to unwind,’ says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley.

Switching off before bed is key to a good night’s slumber. 

  • Establish a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time to give your body clock a defined sleep/wake cue.
  • Have a 30-minute wind-down routine every night. Find things that relax you – we’re unique, so different things work for different people.
  • Avoid stimulants, screens, caffeine, strenuous exercise, arousing games/activities.
  • Do something relaxing. Enjoy a warm bath, a milky drink, a calming book, soothing music, meditation or do gentle stretching/breathing techniques.

Try: A.Vogel Dormeasan Sleep (£4.50 for 15ml, hollandandbarrett.com). Herbal drops of valerian and hops to help you sleep.

In your 50s

Fluctuating hormones during and around menopause can make falling asleep tricky – including falling levels of calming hormones such as progesterone. As well as that, you’re more likely to have an interrupted night, with problems such as temperature control.

Studies show that 62% of menopausal women suffer from poor sleep, which has been linked to chronic health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

  • Keep your bedroom cool and stick to light, natural-fibre nightwear and bedding to avoid sweats.
  • Try blackout blinds or curtains to keep your room dark when you’re sleeping. Pillows and mattress should be supportive and comfortable. Go for the biggest bed possible, if you’re sharing.
  • Ban pets from the bedroom to stop them disturbing your kip.
  • Don’t watch TV in bed.
  • Use your bed for snoozing and sex only – anything else stimulates your brain and may inhibit sleep.

Try: Bamboo pyjamas (£45, prettyyoulondon.co.uk). The natural fabric keeps you cool and pulls moisture away from your skin.

In your 60s

Changes to routine at this life stage, such as retirement and children leaving home, can cause a major upheaval. 

‘It’s very common for women, as they get older, to suddenly find they have problems with sleeping,’ says sleep guru Dr Irshaad Ebrahim of the London Sleep Centre.

‘You may find that you need to think a bit more about the bedroom environment and lifestyle choices as you get older to boost the quality of your night’s sleep.’ 

  • Cut back on alcohol, caffeine and smoking, which are classed as sleep disruptors. 
  • Regular physical activity is essential for improved sleep quality and reducing anxiety.
  • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week, ideally outside. A brisk walk will do the trick.
  • A wind-down routine is crucial to establish structure. See tips from the ‘In your 40s’ section.

Try: Boots Sleepeaze Lavender Pillow Mist (£6 for 100ml).

In your 70s+

It’s a myth that we need less shut-eye as we age, but getting enough can become trickier because of ageing changes.

‘We lose cells that make sleep-promoting substances, such as melatonin,’ says Dr Ebrahim. ‘And our brain volume shrinks, so drifting off, and staying asleep, can become more difficult.’ You also get less stage three (slow-wave) sleep, which is the most restful.

  • Get plenty of daylight to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycle – it suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin.
  • If getting outside is tricky, make sure there’s plenty of natural daylight coming into your home.
  • Exercise regularly and take a nap after. Canadian researchers recently found that it helped fend off forgetfulness and dementia. Just don’t snooze longer than an hour, so it doesn’t interfere with your night-time sleep.

Try: Puressentiel Rest & Relax Bath Shower (£9.99 for 100ml, uk.puressentiel.com). It includes 12 essential oils.

Sleep well!