Chapter 3: Sleep

In our busy lives, sleep can often take a back seat to our packed schedules and never-ending to-do lists, but not getting enough sleep can have a considerable impact on our overall health.1

In this chapter, we will highlight how much sleep is recommended for your age, explore ways to establish healthy sleep habits, and outline common sleep problems and solutions.

Benefits of sleep

Good quality sleep can have many benefits including improved cognitive function, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation. Research has also linked good quality sleep to a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions.2 Furthermore, sleep is crucial for supporting the immune system, helping the body fight off infections and illnesses.1

“I always remind individuals that their physical and mental health are interconnected, and sleep plays a vital role in both,” says Eric Pfeiffer, a Workplace Well-being Consultant with Manulife “Adequate sleep is not just about feeling rested and alert, but it also has a significant impact on mood, stress levels, and energy levels. Prioritizing good sleep habits is crucial for individuals to perform at their best, both professionally and personally.”

Big question: how much sleep do you need?

The amount of sleep you need depends on a variety of factors such as your age, lifestyle, and genetics. In general, most adults should aim for between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.3 However, some people might function well on less sleep while others may require more.

“Getting enough quality sleep is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. When we sleep, our bodies and brains undergo a variety of restorative processes that help us recover from the day's activities and prepare for the challenges of the next day,” explains Dr. Steve Pomedli of Cleveland Clinic Canada, Manulife’s Medical Director.

It's important to pay attention to how you feel throughout the day, and if you consistently feel tired, irritable, or have trouble concentrating, it may be a sign that you're not getting enough quality sleep. If you are having concerns around how you are feeling and your sleep patterns, it is important to review this with your doctor.

Age Hours of sleep needed
0-3 months 14-17 hours
4-12 months 12-16 hours
1-2 years 11-14 hours
3-5 years 10-13 hours
6-12 years 9-12 hours
13-18 years 8-10 hours
19-64 years 7-9hours
65+ years 7-8hours

Source: , 2022

Tips for establishing healthy sleep habits

Establishing healthy sleep habits, or sleep hygiene, can help ensure you’re getting enough good quality sleep.2

Here are some strategies, developed in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic Canada, you can use to help you establish healthy habits around sleep:

  • Set and keep a schedule. Make time for sleep by being consistent. Aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
  • Plan a bedtime routine. Running through your routine helps your brain know that sleep is coming. Try activities to help you wind down for the night, such as meditating or reading a book, to help you get sleepy.
  • Avoid bright lights and electronics. It’s a good idea use ‘night mode’ settings or avoid screen time altogether on your devices about two hours before bedtime as bright light can disrupt your body’s ability to sleep.
  • Avoid eating or drinking. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea can disrupt sleep. Limit caffeine 8 hours before sleep and limit alcohol 4 hours before sleep. It’s also best to avoid eating a large meal too close to bedtime.
  • Get some physical activity. Moving your body during the day can help promote better sleep. Avoid rigorous exercise within 90 minutes of bedtime as it can have an energizing effect.2

Common sleep problems and solutions

Sleep problems can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being.4  There are dozens of sleep disorders but one of the most common is insomnia. Insomnia is when someone has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.4

Insomnia can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, anxiety, and depression.4 Sleep hygiene practices such as creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and electronics before bed, and keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help improve the condition. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful to improve insomnia, and medications may also sometimes be used.4

Another common sleep problem is sleep apnea, which involves interrupted breathing during sleep, which impacts the overall quality of sleep. Sleep apnea can cause frequent snoring or gasping for air during sleep, daytime sleepiness, and a sense of not feeling refreshed after sleeping. Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed by a sleep specialist.4

Mild sleep apnea may be managed by lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on one’s side. In addition to these approaches, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea, which involves wearing a device that delivers air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep.4

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, it's important to seek medical advice as it can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke if it is left untreated.

Getting support – Manulife benefits coverage

When it comes to maximizing your group benefits coverage for sleep-related issues, it's important to understand what's included in your plan and how to access those benefits. Some group benefits plans might include coverage for psychotherapy, reimbursement for CPAP devices, or access to wellness programs or resources that could help improve sleep habits.

By taking advantage of your group benefits coverage for sleep, you can improve your overall health and well-being, both at work and in your personal life.

 Sleep and technology

Technology has had a significant impact on the way we sleep, and not always in a positive way. The blue light emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.5 Exposure to blue light before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.5

Additionally, the constant connectivity and stimulation provided by technology like smartphones can make it difficult to unwind and relax before bed.6  Notifications and alerts can also disrupt your sleep during the night.6

To promote healthy sleep habits, it can be helpful to find ways to limit technology in the bedroom, and use ‘night mode settings’ before bedtime.6