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If there’s one habit that keeps you healthy and your body happy, then it’s definitely sleep. Getting enough of it keeps you functioning, but if you find yourself slacking on your sleep, then chances are that you’ll start to feel like you’re malfunctioning.

We’re all hoping to age well and preserve our longevity, but you can’t exactly do this if you’re not sleeping well. You may think that your sleep habits are harmless, but they could be the one area of your life that is keeping you from living a longer and healthier life.

Sleep and Longevity: What’s The Link?

According to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine earlier this year, participants who experienced at least a single night of sleep loss over an 8-day period (they slept an hour and a half less) reported symptoms that included anger, nervousness, loneliness, irritability, frustration over losing sleep, upper respiratory issues, body aches, and gastrointestinal issues.

If that’s not enough, the researchers also noted that the most significant decline in cognitive and physical well-being occurred after the first night of sleep loss.

Now if this happens after only one night of poor sleep, imagine the effects of consecutive nights of poor sleep on your health.

Poor sleep can increase your risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and stroke – all of which can compromise your longevity. Therefore, if you want to protect your health and longevity, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough quality sleep. As such, it may be advisable to take stock of your sleep patterns and see if you have any habits that are compromising you getting a good night’s rest.

Bedtime Habits Affecting Health and Wellness

1. Too many nightcaps

You may have noticed that alcohol helps you sleep better, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, alcohol has been found to affect sleep quality, and that may be when you find yourself waking up exhausted after too many nightcaps.

A study published in JMIR Mental Health looked at how different levels of alcohol consumption can affect sleep quality. The study, per the Sleep Foundation, found that:

  • Low levels of alcohol consumption (less than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women) decreased sleep quality by 9.3%.
  • Moderate levels of alcohol consumption (two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women) decreased sleep quality by 24%.
  • High levels of alcohol consumption (more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women) decreased sleep quality by 39.2%.
alcohol

Photo by Greta Hoffman

How exactly does this happen? Well, there are four stages of the sleep cycle, each stage helping your body repair and relax. Unfortunately, consuming alcohol can disrupt these stages, decreasing overall sleep quality.

2. Exercising before bed

Yes, it’s important to get a good workout in, but it’s best to avoid any rigorous workouts before bed.

Rigorous workouts, such as running, HIIT, or jump rope elevate your body temperature and stimulates your nervous system, keeping you buzzing and making it harder to fall asleep. 

3. Becoming a night owl

It’s easy to stay up a few hours past bedtime, especially when you have deadlines due, but this really shouldn’t be a habit.

There’s nothing good about being a night owl because all you’re doing is depriving yourself of time that could be spent on getting good quality sleep, which, as aforementioned, can cause a host of health problems that can compromise your longevity.

4. Sleeping with your screen

It seems that we’re spending a large part of our days staring into a screen, even when we’re supposed to be sleeping.

Be it your laptop, your phone, or even the TV that you’ve hung up on your bedroom wall – you should not be falling asleep with any screen near you.

Melatonin is the sleep hormone and this hormone is influenced by light. The electronic devices that we can’t seem to live without mimic the light produced by sunlight (hello blue light) and this light affects melatonin production, signaling to your brain that it’s still time to stay awake.

5. Late night meals

It’s one thing to enjoy a big dinner, but it’s a whole other thing to gorge on a feast minutes before you hit the sack.

Your body needs time to digest the food that you’ve eaten, but if you don’t give it that time, you’ll find yourself battling indigestion and heartburn as you try to fall asleep.

6. Poor sleep schedules

It’s important to keep a consistent sleep schedule, as doing so maintains the body’s internal clock, and it can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Any change in it can affect sleep quality.

It should also be mentioned that you should maintain your sleep schedule over the weekends and holidays. It may be tempting to sleep for a few extra hours, but any disruption to your body’s clock may create problems.

7. Being a (late) coffee drinker

Yes, coffee has longevity benefits, but if you drink it too late in the day, then you’re going to harm your sleep health and affect your longevity.

THC-Free and coffee | Longevity LIVE

Tomasz Romski/Shutterstock

Caffeine can stay in your system for six to eight hours. If you’re making an afternoon coffee run, then you’re risking that caffeine stimulating your nervous system. This will keep you alert and cause restlessness as you try to fall asleep.

8. You don’t have a bedtime routine

We all live busy lives, and sometimes all we want to do is get home and fall straight into bed. While this is a nice thought, it’s important for you to remember to unwind before bed. As hard as it may be to believe, falling asleep when you’re dead tired isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Healthy sleep habits

If you’re worried about your sleep habits and their effects on your longevity, fret not. These habits can ensure that you get a good night’s rest and go on to live a long and healthy life:

  • Eat at least two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Maintain a routine sleep schedule.
  • Don’t exercise right before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants from 2 pm onwards.
  • Avoid nightcaps and try to cut back on alcohol in your day-to-day.
  • Unwind before bed by reading, meditating, or listening to music.
  • Turn your bedroom into a sleep haven.

Read more

Did you know that researchers have found a link between having bad dreams and the risk of Parkinson’s disease? Read here: Your Nightmares Could Be An Early Warning Of Parkinson’s Disease

References

Lee S. (2022). Naturally Occurring Consecutive Sleep Loss and Day-to-Day Trajectories of Affective and Physical Well-Being. Annals of behavioral medicine: a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine56(4), 393–404. https://doi.org/10.1093/abm/kaab055
Pietilä, J., Helander, E., Korhonen, I., Myllymäki, T., Kujala, U. M., & Lindholm, H. (2018). Acute Effect of Alcohol Intake on Cardiovascular Autonomic Regulation During the First Hours of Sleep in a Large Real-World Sample of Finnish Employees: Observational Study. JMIR mental health5(1), e23. https://doi.org/10.2196/mental.9519
Lee S. (2022). Naturally Occurring Consecutive Sleep Loss and Day-to-Day Trajectories of Affective and Physical Well-Being. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine56(4), 393–404. https://doi.org/10.1093/abm/kaab055
Pietilä, J., Helander, E., Korhonen, I., Myllymäki, T., Kujala, U. M., & Lindholm, H. (2018). Acute Effect of Alcohol Intake on Cardiovascular Autonomic Regulation During the First Hours of Sleep in a Large Real-World Sample of Finnish Employees: Observational Study. JMIR mental health5(1), e23. https://doi.org/10.2196/mental.9519
Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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