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Why sleep is so important?

Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. Find out why and what you can do to improve your sleep.

Teen laying in bed sleeping and dreaming

Introduction to sleep

We all know that catching those Zzz’s (also known as sleep time) is super important for our physical and mental health. Teenagers should aim for at least 9 hours a night to feel their best.

When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re not only grumpy but it can have pretty serious affects on our mental health. When we sleep our brains actually deep clean!  

Fun fact: not all sleep is equal! Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage of sleep that is linked to dreaming, making memories stronger, emotional processing and brain boosting.  

Things that can affect sleep

When it’s time to wind down for the day there are lots of things that can impact our sleep time.


Winding down with a good TikTok binge can seem like a great way to prepare for bed but phone time could set you up for failure.

Electronics that emit blue light (including phones, iPads, TV screens and laptops) can reduce our natural production of melatonin (hormone that makes you sleepy). Blue light before bedtime can also impact our REM sleep – this is the important type that’s good for our brain function! Plus, if you’re getting all hyped-up .

It’s not just screens that affect sleep though. If you’re getting all hyped-up playing games or watching shows on your TV shows that give you the feels, your brain releases stress/excitement hormones that can make it a little harder to wind down and fall asleep. 

Sleep chronotypes

Ever wondered why your bestie seems to bounce out of bed on the weekend while you’re lucky to make an appearance before midday? You probably have different ‘chronotypes’ – and they’re influenced by genetics, not willpower.

Psychologists think we have different chronotypes (and that these might change throughout our life depending on our age) as an adaptive way to stay safe overnight. Think about it for a sec... for our nomadic ancestors, if everyone was in deep sleep at the same time, and a predator attacked, that would be very, very bad. Having variety and when people are asleep and awake reduced nighttime dangers. 

Knowing your personal sleep chronotype can help you better understand your sleep time and work out a routine that makes sure you’re getting enough shut eye. 

Fun fact: Did you know that different cultures have lots of differences when it comes to sleep? In Spanish speaking countries the tradition of “siestas” (after lunch snooze) is popular and in Japan some workers take a “inemuri” (short nap at work)!  

Circadian rhythms

These are the natural mental, physical, and behavioural things that happen in your body that follow a 24-hour cycle. These relate to lightness and darkness.

This helps to explain why you may feel more awake, alert and focused during the day and sleepier during the night!

Did you know that teens have different sleep rhythms than kids or adults? Teens are more alert at night and more sleepy in the morning and tend to want to go to bed later and wake up later.

Again, this might be an evolutionary survival thing... teens are some of the fittest members of community, and for our ancestors, having teens awake and alert at night – when nocturnal predators were most active - (while all the kids and old people were asleep) helped keep everyone in the community safe.


Ever had a weekend full of sleep and still feel physically exhausted by the time Monday rolls around? Turns out that oversleeping is a real thing and isn’t great for our mental health. Things like anxiety and depression can lead to oversleeping and make us feel distressed and contribute to things like obesity and chronic pain.

Let’s talk about sleep disorders

Most people have experienced trouble sleeping at some point in their lives but what happens when you think you might have a sleep disorder? Here are some common ones...


Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes falling and staying asleep really hard. It affects 1 in 10 people so if you can relate, you’re not alone.  

What does insomnia look like? 

Difficulty falling asleep

Waking up during the night

Waking up in the early morning and being unable to go back to sleep

Feeling tired and groggy when it’s time to wake up

Insomnia can affect your everyday life and lead to:


Trouble concentrating

Worrying about bedtime

Mood swings

Hyperactivity, aggression, and impulsivity

Losing interest in the things you love

Less energy and motivation

Coping strategies for insomnia:

Relaxation techniques: think meditation, sleep stories or anything else that helps you wind down for bedtime

Avoid afternoon naps – we know it can be tempting but try and stay away from midday snoozing to make bedtime that much more exciting

Find a medical professional who can work with you to create the best plan to suit your needs

Help! This awful/weird thing happens to me when I sleep...

Things like sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep paralysis and sleep terrors are all examples of parasomnia. These parasomnias can interrupt our sleep and can be scary to experience.

Sleep terrors

Sleep terrors happen during the first third of the sleep cycle and are associated with frantic movement and screaming. These can cause intense anxiety and it can take a while to settle back down after a sleep terror.


Nightmares are distressing dreams that often revolve around threats and danger. These happen in the REM sleep state meaning you usually remember the nightmares when you wake up. REM sleep also temporarily ‘paralyses’ us so we don’t act out our dream – so nightmares  don’t involve movement or yelling out.

Sleep paralysis

Have you ever experienced that weird inability to move when you're sleeping? Or feel like you're dreaming when you're awake in bed? It might be sleep paralysis. When we asked, 40% of you said you'd experienced sleep paralysis! Sleep paralysis happens when you wake up/become alert during REM sleep (while your body is paralysed so you don’t act out your dreams). Your brain wakes up just a bit faster than your body does, which is why you can’t move.

Have you heard of exploding head syndrome?

People who have experienced exploding head syndrome describe hearing loud noises like explosions and thunder when they’re just falling asleep or just waking up!

All about dreams

Dreams can be exciting, scary, and sometimes just straight up confusing...

Now, here’s what your dreams mean.... just kidding! Some dreams definitely mean stuff – but that stuff is personal and can only be understood by you. And, let’s be honest – some dreams are just plain weird. Researchers still aren’t really sure why we dream – but there are lots of cool theories!

Other things like lucid dreaming can happen when we sleep – this is when we become aware we’re dreaming while we’re dreaming! Some people say they feel they can control the plot too, kind of like you’re in your very own video game.

How to hack your sleep time

When it comes to setting yourself up for sleep success there are a few things you can do:

  • Try to avoid electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Opt for a book or at least put your phone in ‘night mode’ to avoid the blue light 
  • Develop your own bedtime routine with quiet and soothing activities – no intense games right before bed! 
  • Allocate ‘worry time’ during the day where you can brain dump what’s on your mind so you’re less likely to think about them at bed time  
  • Say no to stimulants like sugar, coffee, black tea, energy drinks and soft drinks, close to bed time 
  • Avoid day time naps or aim for a 20-minute power nap if you really need a pick-me-up 
  • Don’t spend time in bed doing things other than sleeping – eating in bed, playing games, scrolling Insta can be bad – you want to have a mental association between bed = sleep – so move your vegging out to the couch 
  • Think of your room as the perfect sleeping haven – make sure it’s dark, cool, and quiet and dedicated to sleep! 

Have you tried sleeping ASMR?

ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is sometimes used to help people fall asleep. Think: whispering bedtime stories, flowing water, or hair brushing – you can find loads on YouTube! ASMR lovers have reported that listening while trying to fall asleep can streamline the process.

Sleep is super individual and it’s important to find what works for you!

Sleep and your brain

Scientist Lee Constable explains how sleep benefits your brain.

Still having trouble sleeping?

You might need some help to work out what's happening

If you’re still having problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or if you often feel tired during the day, it’s important to talk with a doctor, psychologist or sleep specialist to find out what might be going on.

Need to talk more? Give us a call, send us an email or talk to us on WebChat.

This content was last reviewed 17/08/2023

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