Sleep Health


Lifestyle changes can help you get a good night’s sleep. If sleep is a problem for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist

Fact #1

Most adults need about 7–9 hours’ sleep each night

Fact #2

Good-quality sleep is important to stay healthy, productive, alert, physically coordinated, and to have enough energy for the day. It also helps you manage your emotions and deal with stress

Fact #3

Your wake/sleep cycle is controlled by the melatonin hormone

Fact #4

While you are asleep, your brain is processing information. A lack of sleep can affect your memory and make it harder for you to think well and to be creative

Fact #5

There are different types and stages of sleep. Getting the right balance affects your health

  • Sleep cycles Sleep cycles

    Sleep cycles

    During your sleep, you alternate between deep sleep and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. Both types of sleep are both important for a healthy body.

    Deep sleep stimulates the growth and repair of your body and boosts your immune system.

    REM sleep appears to affect mental ability. Without it your memory suffers, and you may become clumsy, accident prone, and unable to concentrate. Each cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes, so the cycle repeats about four or five times during the night.

    The amount of time you spend in each sleep stage changes as the night progresses. Most deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night. In the second half of the night, the time spent in REM sleep becomes longer. It is normal to wake briefly from the light stages of sleep during the night. You may not be aware of it or remember it.

    As you get older, normal night-time awakenings can become longer, and you may be more likely to remember them. These night-time awakenings are normal and will not usually spoil the quality of your sleep. Even if you have enjoyed a full night’s sleep, waking up at the wrong time in the sleep cycle (in a deep sleep phase) can leave you feeling unrefreshed and tired, compared with waking naturally during light sleep.

  • Melatonin Melatonin


    When it’s dark, your body produces melatonin, which makes you sleepy. During the day, During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to stop making melatonin so that you feel awake and alert. Your body’s ability to product melatonin can be disrupted by irregular sleep patterns, shift work, travelling across time zones, too much light at night or too little light during the day.

  • Insomnia Insomnia


    Insomnia means the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as you want to.

    Insomnia can involve any of these problems:

    • taking more than 30 minutes to get to sleep
    • waking up during the night and staying awake for more than 30–45 minutes
    • waking up too early and being unable to get back to sleep.

    Most adults have experienced insomnia at some time in their lives. It can be due to a stressful life event. People usually recover their ability to sleep, but sometimes insomnia becomes a long-term problem. Talk to your doctor if you believe sleeping is a problem for you.

  • Ways to improve your sleep Ways to improve your sleep

    Ways to improve your sleep

    • Have a regular sleep schedule.
    • Make your bed a relaxing place.
    • Try relaxation techniques.
    • Have a healthy eating pattern.
    • Be physically active.
    • Deal with stress.
    • Know how to get back to sleep when you wake during the night.
    • Consider medicines if other things don’t work.
  • Have a regular sleep schedule Have a regular sleep schedule

    Have a regular sleep schedule

    Try to have the same bet time and waking time every day, even at weekends. Rather than sleeping in, make up for any lost sleep by having naps before 3 pm. Turn off computers and TV at least an hour before bed. Keep the lights low in the evening. If you wake in the night to go to the bathroom, use a low light (e.g. torch, or night light) rather than turning on bright overhead lights.

  • Making your bed a relaxing place Making your bed a relaxing place

    Making your bed a relaxing place

    • Keep your bedroom dark.
    • Allow fresh air into the room.
    • Try to keep your room cool (18°C).
    • Don’t eat in bed.
    • Don’t work or watch TV in bed.
    • Don’t discuss problems in bed.
  • Relaxation techniques Relaxation techniques

    Relaxation techniques

    • Deep breathing
    • Progressive muscle relaxation
    • Visualising
  • Deep breathing Deep breathing

    Deep breathing

    • Close your eyes.
    • Take deep, slow breaths.
    • Try to make each breath even deeper than the last.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation Progressive muscle relaxation

    Progressive muscle relaxation

    • Tense all the muscles in your toes as tightly as you can, then completely relax.
    • Repeat this with your feet.
    • Repeat this, working your way up from your feet to the top of your head, tensing and relaxing the muscles each part of your body.
  • Visualising Visualising


    • Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you.
    • Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.
  • Having healthy eating patterns Having healthy eating patterns

    Having healthy eating patterns

    • Avoid eating big meals late at night.
    • Try cutting down on spicy foods and acidic foods in the evening.
    • Avoid alcohol before bed.
    • Cut down on caffeine during the day. Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and before bedtime.
  • Doing enough physical activity Doing enough physical activity

    Doing enough physical activity

    • Regular physical activity helps you get a good night’s sleep.
    • Exercising early in the day is best for sleep.
  • Deal with stress Deal with stress

    Deal with stress

    • Lingering stress or worry from the day can keep you awake or wake you up.
    • Try and take note of any recurring themes so you can get your stress under control.
    • Ask your doctor for help if stress is stopping you sleep well.
  • Getting back to sleep when you wake during the night Getting back to sleep when you wake during the night

    Getting back to sleep when you wake during the night

    • Don’t let yourself think about problems or things that make you alert.
    • Stay in a sleeping position.
    • Relax.
    • Try not to stress about not being able to fall asleep again.
    • Use relaxation techniques.
    • If you have been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something else that won’t wake you up (e.g. read in a dim light). Don’t use your computer or watch TV.
    • If a worry or an idea is keeping you awake, make a note so you can follow it up the next day.
  • Medicines Medicines


    Sleeping pills are sometimes useful when taken for a few days and for a specific purpose (e.g. to help someone recover from a surgical procedure or a severe emotional upset). Sleeping pills can help you to fall asleep but will not encourage deep restorative sleep.

    They should not be used every day. Over-the-counter medicines (including complementary medicines) may help for some people. All medicines have risks as well as possible benefits.

    Talk to your pharmacist or doctor before using them. Tell them whether you are taking any other medicines. Complete a sleep diary before you try medicines.

  • Sleep diary Sleep diary

    Sleep diary

    Try keeping a sleep diary for 2 weeks. This can help you or your doctor better understand your sleeping patterns and may help find the cause of sleeping problems. Sleep diaries are available online 

  • Snoring Snoring


    Almost everyone snores occasionally, but frequent snoring stops you getting a good night’s sleep. Snoring can sometimes be a warning sign of a more serious problem (e.g. sleep apnoea)

  • Risk factors for snoring Risk factors for snoring

    Risk factors for snoring

    • Sleeping on your back
    • Being middle aged or older
    • Being male
    • Naturally having a narrow throat
    • Cleft palate
    • Enlarged adenoids
    • Nasal or sinus problems
    • Being overweight
    • Smoking
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Some medicines
  • Ways to manage snoring Ways to manage snoring

    Ways to manage snoring

    • Stop smoking. For information and help to quit, ask your pharmacist and/or call the Quitline on 13 QUIT (13 78 48).
    • Lose weight.
    • Exercise.
    • Avoid alcohol.
    • Avoid sleeping pills and sedatives. Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicines.
    • Set up a regular sleep routine.
    • Clear your nasal passages. (Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you often have a blocked nose.)
    • Keep your bedroom air moist with a humidifier.
    • Elevate your bedhead by about 10 cm.
    • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals within 2 hours of going to bed.
    • Sleep on your side, not your back.
    • Try throat exercises or singing exercises for snoring. Ask your doctor.
  • Sleep apnoea Sleep apnoea

    Sleep apnoea

    Sleep apnoea is a medical condition that can have serious health effects. When a person with sleep apnoea is asleep, their breathing briefly stops, or becomes very shallow. These pauses last 10–20 seconds and can occur hundreds of times per night. Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common type of sleep apnoea. It occurs when the tissue at the back of the throat relaxes during sleep. This blocks the airway and causes loud snoring.

    Sleep apnoea can lead to serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and weight gain.

    See your doctor if you have symptoms of sleep apnoea. You may need referral to a sleep specialist.

    Sleep apnoea can be managed effectively.

  • Symptoms of sleep apnoea Symptoms of sleep apnoea

    Symptoms of sleep apnoea

    • Long-term loud snoring
    • Long pauses in breathing during sleep
    • Choking, snorting or gasping during sleep
    • Daytime sleepiness despite a long sleep
  • Additional resources