Feeling fatigued and drowsy during the day?
You’re not alone! Sleep deprivation affects millions of people and can hamper your overall health and quality of life. But did you know that getting a goodnight’s sleep can help you live longer?
With the rapid advancement of science and technology, numerous scientific studies are constantly being conducted to determine the impacts of lifestyle habits on peoples’ health. One of such studies was recently presented at the ACC.23/WCC joint conference in March 2023 by researchers which suggested that people with healthier sleeping habits are less likely to die earlier.
The study was based on data collected from 172,321 people with an average age of 50, out of which 54 per cent were women. It found that having the correct sleeping habits could generally add almost five years to a man’s life expectancy and 2.5 years to a woman’s life expectancy. Furthermore, two-thirds of the participants reported being white, 14.5 per cent Latino, 12.6 per cent Black and 5.5 per cent Asian.
The participants were followed for about 4.3 years, during which 8,681 people died. Out of these deaths, 30 per cent were due to cardiovascular diseases, 24 per cent were because of cancer and the remaining 46 per cent were of other causes.
Incorporating certain sleep habits into your daily routine can have lasting health benefits, so if you’re looking to extend your lifespan, take a look at some of the habits that have been proven to help you get a better night sleep and potentially add years to your life.
6 Factors for Healthy Sleeping
Based on an assessment of five different factors in quality sleep, Dr Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders, has identified five easy habits that can robustly improve the length and quality of our sleep which he outlined in his best-selling book “Sleep Smarter: The Science and Art of Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep”.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule
Sleep is essential to both our mental and physical health, yet many people fail to get enough. According to him, sleep deprivation can result in symptoms including mood changes, irritability and fatigue that negatively impact overall wellness.
He said: “One of the effective way to guarantee yourself sufficient rest is to set a consistent sleep schedule – that means going to bed and rising at the same time each day.
“By sticking to your regular sleep schedule no matter what is going on in your life – whether working early mornings or having doctor’s appointments during the day – you will ensure that your internal clock remains on schedule and feel rested when it comes time for bedtime.
“If your sleep schedule starts slipping away from you, make small, incremental adjustments that will get it back on track without leaving you feeling overwhelmed or discouraged”, he counselled.
- Avoid alcohol before bed
Breus alleges that drinking too much before bed can disrupt your sleeping patterns and leave you more tired the following day. He also said it may increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea – an illness in which airways collapse repeatedly while you sleep – increasing its severity and leading to additional symptoms during restless nights.
“Alcohol can cause frequent awakenings and hangovers, making sleep even harder to come by. It also interferes with your natural circadian rhythm – responsible for managing sleeping patterns and helping you wake up feeling refreshed – which should regulate and optimize sleep quality.
“Alcohol may disturb your REM sleep cycle, which is the stage during the night when dreaming occurs. For optimal restfulness in the morning, we need an adequate amount of REM sleep each night,” he said.
Before bed, it is wise to consume only small amounts of alcohol to give your body time to process and metabolise it properly. This will ensure a better night’s rest without fearing a hangover the following morning, he added.
- Get out of bed if you can’t sleep
According to Brues, engaging in some form of activity when you can’t sleep is a crucial component of successful sleeping and can speed up the process of falling asleep more quickly.
Examples may include walking around, reading a book, or engaging in low-impact games such as Sudoku.
“Use an activity that will promote restful sleep, such as knitting or musical instrument playing, as a hobby to relax you before bedtime and help ease you to drowsiness without straining your eyes,” he said.
“Finding an activity that’s both low impact and enjoyable is key to relaxing effectively, without being overwhelming. Some may prefer music or games over others; you might need to experiment before discovering one that suits you”, he advised.
As it’s also important to keep you awake longer, distractions must also be eliminated from your environment. Watching TV, using cell phones or playing computer games all have the ability to put you into an alert state, making it harder for you to sleep later on.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant and can disrupt sleep, so Brues advised to limit or even eliminate your caffeine intake if possible. In particular, he said, try to avoid consuming it in the evening or late afternoon, as it can stay in your system longer than you think.
- Create a comfortable environment
Start by ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet, and free from any TVs or technology. Light is known to interfere with a good night’s sleep, so investing in blackout curtains, shades, or an eye mask can help block out any disruptive light sources.
To block out sound, you can use soundproofing materials such as earplugs, white noise machines, or heavier curtains to block out any unwanted noise. In addition, technology can be a major distraction when trying to go to sleep, so try to turn off any TVs or keep the TVs out of your bedroom.
- Get the recommended duration of sleep daily
Everyone needs to get an adequate amount of sleep to feel energized and remain healthy. But how much sleep do we need per night? According to Stephanie Romiszewski, a sleep expert who works at NHS Clinical Sleep Disorder Centre in the UK, the recommended duration of sleep for every human is 7 to 9 hours per night.
Her research suggests that sleeping fewer than 7 hours each night increases the risk of health concerns, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. On the other hand, sleeping more than 9 hours each night is also associated with health risks, such as depression and anxiety.
Romiszewski also suggests that there are certain times during the day when it is best to get rest. For instance, younger adults tend to sleep best at night when the body is at its most relaxed. Older adults tend to do best with a nap during the day, as well as a full night’s sleep. It is also recommended that people avoid sleeping late, as the body’s natural internal clock is disrupted.