4 Simple Sleep Habits That Help You Live Longer, New Research Shows
Your health hinges on getting a better night's rest, according to science.
We all know how unpleasant it feels to skimp on a good night's sleep. More often than not, when we get too little shuteye, we become groggy, crabby, unfocused, and forgetful. However, chronically poor sleep habits affect much more than the following morning. Experts say that your health—and even your longevity—can start to suffer when you neglect getting adequate rest on a regular basis.
"Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body—from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance," explains the National Institute for Neurologic Disorders and Stroke. "Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity."
The good news? There are a handful of easy changes that can put you back on track to better health. These are the five simple sleep hygiene habits to try if you want to live longer, new research shows.
Get enough quality sleep.
Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is one of the major pillars of health, of similar importance to your diet and physical activity levels. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adults aged 65 and older need just slightly less—between seven and eight hours per night.
According to a 2010 meta-analysis published in the journal Sleep, which mined data from 16 studies including 1,382,999 subjects, sleep duration can significantly impact longevity. "Both short and long duration of sleep are significant predictors of death in prospective population studies," the study authors concluded.
But it's also important for your health and longevity to get good quality sleep, the CDC notes. You can do this by getting natural light exposure early in the day, eating well, getting physical activity throughout the day, having a pre-bedtime ritual, and making your bedroom conducive to uninterrupted sleep.
"Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air). Improving sleep quality may be helped by better sleep habits or being diagnosed and treated for any sleep disorder you may have," the CDC writes.
Set a schedule for your sleep and wake times.
It's long been accepted that sleep duration has a direct effect on health and longevity, but researchers are only now beginning to understand how keeping a set sleep schedule impacts length of life.
According to a newly released, Jan. 2024 study also published in the journal Sleep, setting consistent sleep and wake times may have the greatest effect on longevity.
"Emerging research demonstrates that sleep regularity, the day-to-day consistency of sleep-wake timing, can be a stronger predictor for some health outcomes than sleep duration," the study states. "Sleep regularity may be a simple, effective target for improving general health and survival."
Wear an eye mask.
When you allow even a little bit of light into your bedroom at night—let's say from a bright clock or a nightlight in the hallway—this can have a profound effect on your sleep quality and overall health. In fact, research shows that the practice is associated with metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors, including increased insulin resistance, and higher incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Wearing an eye mask at night is a simple way to counteract these risks by blocking out any minor lights.
Try a scent diffuser.
Scent can be a powerful trigger for memory, and new research seems to suggest that using a scent diffuser while you sleep can help improve cognitive function. In fact, when a cohort of senior study subjects used fragrance diffusers in their bedrooms for just two hours every night over six months, the researchers saw that their cognitive performance on a memory test rose by a shocking 226 percent.
"Minimal olfactory enrichment administered at night produces improvements in both cognitive and neural functioning. Thus, olfactory enrichment may provide an effective and low-effort pathway to improved brain health," the study authors concluded.
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Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.
- Source: National Institute for Neurologic Disorders and Stroke: Understanding Sleep
- Source: CDC: How Much Sleep Do I Need?
- Source: Sleep Duration and All-Cause Mortality
- Source: Sleep regularity is a stronger predictor of mortality risk than sleep duration
- Source: Light at night in older age is associated with obesity, diabetes, and hypertension
- Source: Overnight olfactory enrichment using an odorant diffuser improves memory and modifies the uncinate fasciculus in older adults