Healthy sleep habits

Today we have a lot of evidence about the relationship between sleep habits and depression. In fact, depression is one of the most frequent causes of insomnia.

The symptoms of depression related to sleep are:

• Difficulty falling asleep (initial insomnia)

• Difficulty getting back to sleep once you wake up (maintenance insomnia)

• Waking up very early in the morning (late insomnia)

Approximately 90% of patients with depression suffer from a sleep disorder. In addition, one third of healthy adults also have symptoms of insomnia and 10% of adults express difficulties in chronic sleep.

Many patients with poor sleep quality try to compensate by spending more hours in bed. It is usual for patients who sleep only 5 hours to spend 9 or 10 hours in bed, which contributes to the maintenance of healthy sleep . In those cases it may be useful to reduce the time you spend in bed.


• Get out of bed as soon as you wake up and do not return to it during the day

• Try to get up every day at the same time

• Plan an activity outside the home in the mornings to get some fresh air, either go shopping or look for the newspaper.


• Avoid naps, as they will create more problems sleeping at night. Many people with depression even feel more tired after having a nap.

• Try to stay physically active during the day.

• Avoid caffeine after 4:00 pm and do not drink more than two caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, coke or energy drinks) during the day.

Before going to sleep:

• Avoid going to bed very early.

• Avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed, as it can reduce the intensity of sleep and cause you to wake up at night.

• Stop smoking half an hour before going to sleep: nicotine is a stimulant.

• Do not go to bed hungry or after having eaten too much.

• Regular physical activity can improve the quality of sleep, however, very intense physical activity is not recommended before sleeping.

• Try to have some time to relax before going to sleep: if you are working or studying, book at least 30 minutes to do something relaxing before going to bed.

• Use the bed to sleep, avoid watching television or use the computer in it.

• If after a time in bed you cannot sleep, get out of bed and go to another room, perform a relaxing activity (like listening to quiet music) and then go back to bed.

What is the dream?

When you sleep you are unconscious, but the functions of your brain and body are still active. During sleep, your brain goes through five different phases: Stage 1, 2, 3, 4 and rapid eye movement sleep (REM or REM in English). Different things happen in each stage. For example, you go through different patterns of brain waves (patterns of electrical activity in the brain) in each of them. Your breathing, heart rate and temperature may be faster or slower in certain stages. Some phases of sleep can help you feel more rested and energized the next day. The different phases of sleep help you:

• Feeling rested and energized the next day

• Learn information, make reflections and form memories

• Rest the heart and vascular system

• Release more growth hormone, which helps children grow. It also increases muscle mass and cell and tissue repair in children and adults

• Release sex hormones, which contribute to puberty and fertility

• Avoid getting sick or getting better when sick, creating more cytokines (hormones that help the immune system fight various infections)

How much sleep do I need?

The amount of sleep you need depends on several factors, including your age, lifestyle, health status and whether you have slept enough. The general recommendations for sleep are:

• Newborns: 16-18 hours a day

• Preschoolers: 11-12 hours a day

• Children of school age: at least 10 hours a day

• Adolescents: 9-10 hours a day

• Adults (including older adults): 7-8 hours a day

During puberty, the adolescents' biological clock changes and they are more likely to go to bed later than children and adults, and tend to want to sleep more in the morning. This is in conflict with the early start times of many high schools and helps explain why most teens do not get enough sleep.

Some people think that adults need less sleep as they get older, but there is no evidence to show it. However, as people get older they tend to sleep less or spend less time in deep and restful sleep. Older people also wake up more easily.

And not only is the amount of hours of sleep you get what matters. The quality of sleep is also important.

People whose sleep is often interrupted or shortened may not spend enough time in different stages of sleep.

If you have doubts about getting enough sleep, including quality sleep, ask yourself the following:

• Do I have problems getting up in the morning?

• Do I have trouble concentrating during the day?

• Am I sleepy during the day?

If you answered yes to these three questions, you should try to sleep better.

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