Scientists have found five essential sleep behaviours that can actually add years to your life – and they’re oh-so simple.
We all know good quality sleep is essential to being healthy, mentally and physically.
Well, researchers have found that sleeping properly can have a measurable impact on your life span.
Life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and 2.4 years greater for women who reported having all five of these quality sleep measures compared with those who had none or only one out of the five.
So, what are these five life-extending sleep qualities?
- Seven or eight hours sleep a night.
- Having difficulty falling asleep no more than twice a week.
- Having 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 researchers hope patients and doctors will start talking about sleep as a vital part of overall health assessments.
Study co-author Doctor Frank Qian said: ‘If people have all these ideal sleep behaviours, they are more likely to live longer.’
The American research team who undertook this new study found that young people who have more beneficial sleep behaviours are incrementally less likely to die young.
Interestingly, the findings also suggest that roughly 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns.
Past studies have shown that getting too little or even too much sleep can negatively affect the heart, and it’s been widely reported that sleep apnoea can lead to multiple heart conditions – including high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and heart attacks.
Dr Qian said: ‘I think these findings emphasise 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.’
The researchers working on the study looked at figures from over 172,000 American adults with an average age of 50.
These adults filled out an annual health survey on sleep and sleep habits between 2013 and 2018. Participants were followed for an average of 4.3 years during which time 8,681 died.
Of the deaths, 30% were from cardiovascular disease, 24% were from cancer and 46% were due to other causes.
Researchers assessed the different quality sleep factors noted by the participants and each factor was assigned zero or one point, making for a maximum of five points for the highest quality sleep.
Compared to people who had zero to one favourable sleep factors, the study found that 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.
Dr Qian said the other deaths were likely due to accidents, infections or neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
The clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School said: ‘If we can improve sleep overall, and identifying sleep disorders is especially important, we may be able to prevent some of this premature mortality.
‘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.
‘It’s important for younger people to understand that a lot of health behaviours are cumulative over time. Just like we like to say, “it’s never too late to exercise or stop smoking,” it’s also never too early. And we should be talking about and assessing sleep more often.’
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