Did You Know That Sleep Habits Can Add Years to Your Life?

Here’s how to achieve the 5 sleep habits that researchers say can extend your life expectancy.

You curl up in bed after a long day. You fall asleep instant­ly and sleep sound­ly through the night. You wake in the morn­ing, feel­ing refreshed and ready to go.

If this sounds like a far-off fan­ta­sy, you’re in good com­pa­ny. Tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans strug­gle with ongo­ing sleep dis­or­ders, and almost every­one has had the occa­sion­al sleep­less night. 

Even though it’s not always easy, get­ting enough sleep — and good qual­i­ty sleep — is crit­i­cal. Good sleep improves your phys­i­cal and men­tal health and sharp­ens your brain. And now, a recent study has revealed that qual­i­ty sleep may increase life expectancy. 

The study iden­ti­fied 5 habits of qual­i­ty sleep:

  1. Falling Asleep Easily

  2. Stay­ing Asleep

  3. Get­ting 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep

  4. Wak­ing Up Feel­ing Rested

  5. Not Using Sleep Medications

In the study, hav­ing those sleep habits added near­ly 2.5 years to a woman’s life, and almost 5 years to a man’s.

These habits might seem sim­ple enough — but in real­i­ty, they are often much eas­i­er said than done. 

Here are 5 steps you can take toward achiev­ing those habits: 

1. Improve your sleep environment

All of your sur­round­ings, from the tem­per­a­ture of your room to the back­ground noise to the pile of dirty laun­dry on the floor can make a dif­fer­ence in the qual­i­ty of your sleep.

There are many ways to make your room opti­mal for sleep, such as:

  • Keep­ing your room cool, between 60 and 67 degrees Fahren­heit. Your body nat­u­ral­ly low­ers its tem­per­a­ture to help you fall asleep, and a cool room helps speed along that process.

  • Turn off your lights. Your body pro­duces a hor­mone called mela­tonin that helps you fall asleep — but light can slow down pro­duc­tion. You can prep your brain for bed­time by dim­ming your lights as bed­time approaches.

  • Clean your room. De-clut­ter­ing your room and mak­ing your bed every day has been shown to improve sleep.

  • Reduce noise. A qui­et room can help you fall asleep and low­er the like­li­hood of wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night. If you pre­fer a lit­tle noise, try the whir of a fan or white noise machine. If you live on a busy street, move your bed away from the window.

If you’re able to, invest in a new mat­tress or more com­fort­able pil­lows — com­fort can be key when it comes to get­ting a good night’s sleep.

Also read: Can’t Fall Asleep? It May Be Your Sleep Environment

2. Stop using screens before bed

It can be tempt­ing to spend those few min­utes you have to your­self before bed on your phone or watch­ing TV. But while that might seem relax­ing, it’s actu­al­ly ril­ing your body up and mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to sleep.

Screens, like those from smart­phones, TVs, and com­put­ers, emit a type of light called blue light. The sun also gives off blue light. Blue light can be ben­e­fi­cial dur­ing the day, as it can boost your mood and lev­el of alert­ness. At night, how­ev­er, it can keep you awake. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, scrolling through your social media feed or watch­ing a movie can stim­u­late intense emo­tions, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive. This can cause stress and anx­i­ety, and make it hard­er to fall asleep.

The gen­er­al rec­om­men­da­tion is to avoid screens in the hour or two before bed­time. It may help to keep your phone charg­ing out of arm’s reach.

Also read: Why Am I So Tired?

3. Set a bed­time and wake-up time — and be consistent

The amount of sleep some­one needs can vary, but the recent study regard­ing sleep habits to help you live longer sug­gests that the mag­ic range is between 7 and 8 hours per night.

This isn’t a rec­om­men­da­tion to take light­ly. Not get­ting enough sleep can be detri­men­tal to your health. In the short term, it can reduce alert­ness, increase mood­i­ness, and raise your risk of drowsy dri­ving and car acci­dents. Long-term sleep depri­va­tion has been linked to weight gain, high blood pres­sure, heart or kid­ney dis­ease, stroke, and depression. 

Too much sleep can also cause prob­lems. It can make you feel lethar­gic and unmo­ti­vat­ed the next day and has been asso­ci­at­ed with health prob­lems like type 2 dia­betes and heart disease.

Going to bed and wak­ing up at the same time every day — includ­ing on week­ends — can help train your body to get the right amount of sleep. 

To learn more about improv­ing your sleep habits and get­ting a bet­ter night’s sleep, make an appoint­ment with a Duly Health and Care sleep med­i­cine specialist. 

4. Use sleep med­ica­tions sparingly.

Over-the-counter sleep­ing pills aren’t quite as promis­ing as they seem. The pills are sup­posed to make you feel sedat­ed by block­ing cer­tain chem­i­cals in your brain. How­ev­er, they are usu­al­ly not very effec­tive and they can make you feel drowsy the next day. Even if pills do work for you, it’s easy to become tol­er­ant of them — which means they’re no longer effective. 

Be care­ful with mela­tonin sup­ple­ments, too. While they may help with insom­nia and are usu­al­ly safe in the short term, there isn’t enough infor­ma­tion about long-term use. They’re not reg­u­lat­ed by the US Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA), and their labels are often inac­cu­rate or misleading. 

There is an excep­tion: If your provider pre­scribes sleep med­ica­tion, you may be able to take it on a more reg­u­lar basis. Always fol­low your provider’s advice for tak­ing med­ica­tion safely. 

5. Get a sleep test.

While it’s nor­mal to occa­sion­al­ly strug­gle with a bout of insom­nia or wake up feel­ing like you need an extra 10 hours of sleep, sleep prob­lems that won’t go away shouldn’t be ignored.

Your provider may want to order a sleep study. This is a test that eval­u­ates your sleep pat­terns by mea­sur­ing fac­tors such as your:

  • Air­flow

  • Blood oxy­gen level

  • Brain waves

  • Eye move­ments

  • Heart rate

  • Snor­ing or oth­er noises

A sleep study helps your provider diag­nose dis­or­ders like sleep apnea, nar­colep­sy, peri­od­ic limb move­ment dis­or­der, or oth­er unusu­al behav­iors that occur dur­ing sleep. 

Whether you need a sleep study, a pre­scrip­tion sleep aid, or advice on improv­ing your sleep habits, your pri­ma­ry care provider or a sleep spe­cial­ist can help. Chang­ing your habits isn’t always easy, but the results will be more than worth it.

Hap­py snoozing!

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  • Good healthcare is a combination of both words: health and care. I believe good care begins with a foundation of a trusting relationship. I partner with my patients to help them gain a deeper understanding of how their bodies work. In this partnership, I act as a guide, providing evidence based recommendations and up-to-date care practices. I want people to feel connected to their health and empowered to make healthy choices that fit with their goals.