- New research suggests that up to 8% of deaths for any reason could be due to suboptimal sleep patterns.
- The study tracked five different markers of sleep quality and how they affect longevity.
- Experts explain why sleep is essential for our long-term health.
If you often take naps in the middle of the day or regularly wake up tired in the morning, you’re probably not getting enough high-quality Z. Which could turn out to be more of a problem than just needing more coffee. Your sleep habits play a role in supporting your heart and overall health, and according to new research, possibly even your lifespan.
A new study presented this weekend at the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session shows how good sleep can add years to your life. The results show that up to 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep habits, and those with healthier sleep habits are increasingly less likely to die prematurely.
This study used National Health Interview Survey data from 1997 to 2018, as well as National Death Index records through December 31, 2019, to examine the association between individual and combined sleep factors and mortality. for 172,321 attendees. The researchers created a sleep pattern score using five factors related to sleep and defined low-risk groups as follows:
- Sleep duration of 7-8 hours per day
- Difficulty falling asleep less than twice a week
- Difficulty staying asleep at least twice a week
- No use of sleeping pills
- Feel rested at least five days a week upon waking
Researchers estimated that 7.9% of the risk of dying for any reason was due to suboptimal sleep patterns. Life expectancy at age 30 for those with all five low-risk sleep factors was 4.7 years higher for men and 2.4 years for women than those with zero to one factor. low-risk sleep.
Compared to people who had zero to a favorable sleep factor, those who had all five were 30% less likely to die of any reason, 21% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die of cancer and 40% less likely to die from causes other than heart disease or cancer.
What is a “good” sleep pattern?
A good sleep pattern is going to sleep and waking up at around the same time every day, says Angela Holliday-Bell, MD, licensed physician, certified sleep specialist, and founder of the The solution is sleep. “People differ in their chronotypes or preferred bedtimes and waking times, but what’s most important is keeping the time consistent. It helps train and strengthen your circadian rhythmmaking it easier to fall asleep each night and wake up each morning.
The ideal sleep pattern is the most continuous sleep possible, says Yu-Ming Ni, MD, cardiologist, non-invasive cardiology at Orange Coast Medical Center’s MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute. “We are awake 16 hours a day and sleep eight hours. And in eight hours, we’re trying to recover twice as much time, stress and activity during the day, so that’s extremely important.
A good sleep pattern or “routine” is one that keeps you feeling refreshed and alert while you’re awake, says David Kuhlmann, MD., sleep specialist at Bothwell Sleep Center and Bothwell Health Center Truman Lake. “Healthy sleep includes adequate duration — the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven or more hours of sleep per night — as well as proper timing and regularity.”
The quality of sleep is also important, including the absence of disturbances or disturbances in sleep. “If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s important to ask your doctor to get tested. Sleep Apneanotes Dr. Ni.
If you find yourself taking frequent naps during the day, it’s usually a sign that you’re not getting enough quality sleep at night, Dr. Ni notes. Studies have shown that frequent naps are linked to a higher risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Why is sleep important for our long-term health?
Sleep affects all facets of our health, says Dr. Holliday-Bell. “When we don’t sleep better, it sends our bodies into a state of stress in which excessive amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, are released. This increase in baseline cortisol leads to inflammation which can lead to the weakening of blood vessels and heart disease.
We’re also less likely to be active when we don’t get enough sleep and more likely to forgo nutritious food choices, leading to an increased risk of obesity.
“Our immune system is also regulated and works best at night, so consistently insufficient sleep increases our risk of infection,” Dr. Holliday-Bell continues. We’re also much more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression when we don’t get enough sleep, she adds. “
Dr. Ni reminds us that the The American Heart Association recently updated its “simple 7” steps for measuring heart health to add an 8th element of sleep health“Now it’s called the Essential 8, because research has been pointing in this direction for so long that healthy sleep is important for heart health.”
How can I sleep better?
According to Dr. Holliday-Bell, here are some easy-to-follow guidelines for creating a healthier sleep environment:
- Start by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. It’s also a good idea to try light exposure first thing in the morning to further train your circadian rhythm and make it easier to wake up.
- Engaging in physical activity during the day can also help you get better quality sleep.
- When it comes to bedtime, it’s important to dim the lights or use low-emitting lights like bedside lamps two hours before bedtime as this helps support your natural melatonin release, which is the hormone that sets the stage for sleep.
- Having a good, soothing, and consistent bedtime routine is also a great way to ease the transition to sleep and make it easier to fall asleep at your desired time and stay asleep longer.
- Certain natural sleep supplements may also be helpful in improving sleep quality, such as magnesium, which has been shown to promote deeper quality sleep. Of course, you should speak with your doctor before starting any new sleep supplement.
- Avoid caffeine after around noon as it takes a long time (around 5-6 hours) to be metabolized and eliminated from your system, and could disrupt your sleep quality long after consuming it.
- Avoid alcohol 3-4 hours before bedtime as it is metabolized rapidly and once metabolized becomes a stimulant which can lead to interrupted and poor quality sleep.
One of the biggest things that interrupts sleep quality is the amount of time spent in front of a screen, watching TV, or being on the phone right before bed, Dr. Ni says. “Light is stimulating to our brain and can confuse the brain into thinking it’s not ready for bedtime, which can affect sleep quality.” Dr. Kuhlmann agrees, saying he recommends limiting exposure to bright lights and electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime. “Instead, wind down with a relaxing activity like journaling, reading, or meditating.”
If you can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up and take a warm shower or bath, suggests Dr. Kuhlmann. “Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet to promote a healthy and relaxing sleep environment. If you have good sleep hygiene and still have interrupted or unrefreshing sleep, you should discuss this with your health care provider.
The bottom line
“This study shows how dangerous insufficient sleep can be. People should use this as motivation to start prioritizing their sleep and understanding that it’s not just the amount of sleep but the quality of their sleep that affects their health,” says Dr Holliday-Bell.
It’s something you do every day, for (hopefully) eight hours a day, so this new research just underscores the importance of spending time thinking to improve your sleep, Dr. Ni says. “Now we know that, if done right, better sleep can extend your life by at least five years.”
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, be sure to follow healthy sleep behaviors, says Dr. Kuhlmann. “If you still have trouble falling or staying asleep, or if you wake up without rest, talk to your healthcare provider.”
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Magdalene, Preventionassociate editor of , has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD and her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience — and she helps strategize for success across Preventionsocial media platforms.