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Follow Good Sleep Habits to Add Almost 5 Years to Your Life

Hayley Dawes
22 March 2023

Want to live longer? Then prioritise sleep in your life: following good sleep habits can add nearly 5 years to a man’s life expectancy and almost 2.5 years to a woman’s life, a new study found.

Your behaviours during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have a major impact on your sleep. They can promote healthy sleep or contribute to sleeplessness.

Your daily routines – what you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you choose to spend your evening – can significantly impact your quality of sleep. Even a few slight adjustments can, in some cases, mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night.

What do you do? 

First, make sure you get a full 7-8 hours of sleep each night. That’s tough for many people: almost 1 in 5 people in the UK aren’t getting enough sleep. But you have to do more than just lay in bed longer – you also need to have an uninterrupted, restful sleep more often than not. That means you don’t wake up during the night or have trouble falling asleep more than two times a week. You also must feel well rested at least five days a week when you wake up. And finally, you can’t be using sleep medications to achieve your slumber.

It's not just quality and quantity of sleep, but regularity, getting the same good sleep night after night. Recent studies have shown irregularity in sleep timing and duration have been linked to metabolic abnormalities and higher cardiovascular disease risk. Encouraging maintenance of regular sleep schedules with consistent sleep durations may be an important part of lifestyle recommendations for the prevention of heart disease.

A difference between men and women

Based on an assessment of five different factors in quality sleep, researchers determined the key habits for high-quality sleep are: 

  1. 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  2. Difficulty falling asleep no more than twice a week
  3. Trouble staying asleep no more than twice a week
  4. Not using any sleep medication
  5. Feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week

About four years later, researchers compared those scores with National Death Index records to see if their sleep behaviours contributed to an early death from certain diseases or any cause:

Men who followed all five of the healthy sleep habits had a life expectancy that was 4.7 years greater than people who had none or only one of the five elements of low-risk sleep, the study found.

The impact of healthy sleep habits was much lower for women. Those who followed all five sleep habits gained 2.4 years compared with those who did none or only one.

If you hit all five healthy sleep patterns, you’ll see other healthy side effects. These include living a longer life because you’ll decrease the chances of dying from other causes that come with poor sleep hygiene. “If people have all these ideal sleep behaviours, they are more likely to live longer,” says Dr. Frank Qian. So, if we can improve sleep overall (and identifying sleep disorders is especially important), we may be able to prevent some of this premature mortality.

Factors that increase when you don’t sleep enough

  • Compromised immune system, meaning an increase in sickness and infection
  • Poor eating habits
  • Higher risk of stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Poor mental health

Good sleep hygiene

Many factors can interfere with a good night’s sleep – from work stress and family responsibilities to illnesses. It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive. You might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep. However, the good news is that you can easily train your brain to better sleep by following what is called good sleep hygiene:

Stick to a sleep schedule

Set aside no more than 8 hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least 7 hours. It’s important to go to bed at the same time on most nights and get up at the same time most mornings – even on weekends and holidays. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read of listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed but continue to maintain your sleep schedule and wake-up time.

Create a restful environment

Make sure your sleeping environment is optimal – cooler and darker is better – and block noise or try a sound machine. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. 

Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Discomfort might keep you up. Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can interfere with sleep. Avoid booze before bed – it may seem like you’re falling asleep more easily, but when your liver finishes metabolising the alcohol at 3 a.m., your body will wake up. even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

Have a relaxing sleep routine

Set up a sleep routine, with no blue lights or distractions at least an hour before bedtime. Try meditation, yoga, warm baths – anything that relaxes you is great.

Limit daytime naps

Long daytime naps can interfere with night-time sleep. Limit naps to no more than one hour and avoid napping late in the day.

Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. However, avoid begin active too close to bedtime. Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too. 

Manage worries

Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Write down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Meditation also can ease anxiety.

Parents can learn these habits and teach them to their children, thus providing them with a better shot at a longer life. Even from a young age, if people can develop these good sleep habits of getting enough sleep, making sure they are sleeping without too many distractions and have good sleep hygiene overall, it can greatly benefit their overall long-term health.

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