In case you haven’t heard, sleep is pretty important for your overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 3 adults are not meeting the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. There is a pretty strong emphasis on getting enough hours of sleep a night. However, a recent Harvard study has decided to focus on how sleep habits might be affecting both your sleep and longevity.
The Link Between Sleep Habits and Longevity
In research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together With the World Congress of Cardiology, a team of scientists examined the data of 172321 American adults, with a median age of 50. The data was taken from an annual health survey between 2013 and 2018. The survey included questions about sleep and sleep habits.
For the study, the researchers used five habits to measure the quality of sleep, with each factor being assigned zero or one point, and the maximum being five points, which indicated the highest quality of sleep.
These habits included:
- seven or eight hours of sleep a night
- difficulty falling asleep, no more than twice a week
- trouble staying asleep, no more than twice a week
- not using any sleep medication
- feeling well rested when waking up at least five days a week
The participants were followed for an average of 4.3 years, during which 8681 of them died. Of the deaths, 30% were from cardiovascular disease, 24% were from cancer and 46% were due to other causes.
Can healthy sleep habits boost longevity?
“Compared to individuals who had zero to one favorable sleep factor, those who had all five were 30% less likely to die for any reason, 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer, and 40% less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer.”
According to the authors of the study, participants with the healthiest sleep habits faced a 30% reduced risk of death, with the study also suggesting that 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns.
Speaking on the study’s findings, Frank Qian, an internal medicine resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, America, a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and co-author of the study, said that sometimes healthy sleep goes beyond getting 7–8 hours of sleep a day,
“I think these findings emphasize that just getting enough hours of sleep isn’t sufficient. You really have to have restful sleep and not have much trouble falling and staying asleep.”
Improving your sleep habits
While Qian and his team do acknowledge that more research is needed to confirm the findings, especially because the sleep habits were self-reported and not objectively measured or verified, they still hope that individuals will be more conscious of the role that sleep plays in their overall health and longevity.
“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,” he says.
If you’re hoping to improve your sleep and develop better sleep habits, then try this easy and effective nighttime routine courtesy of Dr. Yashica Khalawan, a South African-based general practitioner.
- Eat dinner 3 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid the foods mentioned.
- 1 hour before bedtime, switch off all devices. Limit liquid intake to avoid bathroom trips.
- Listen to relaxing music and take a warm bath/shower. The cooling of body temperature helps signal sleep.
- Create an environment that supports sleep:
- Room temp 68 degrees Fahrenheit
- Darken the room
- Sound machine to block out outside noise
- Invest in a quality mattress and pillow that supports the alignment of the spine
- During the night, avoid checking the time, as this increases anxiety about sleep.