Updated: Sep 3, 2020
I’ve never had trouble getting a good night sleep, but since over 25% of Americans don’t get enough sleep, I decided to dig in: Do sleep patterns influence longevity?
In order to understand this topic, it’s important to look at what happens in our bodies when we sleep. Sleep is the critical time during which the body repairs and renews all the cells in our brain, muscles, and organs. Sleep also regulates metabolism and the proper releases of hormones, so it’s clear that sleep is critical to our overall health and longevity. If the cells don’t have enough time to repair and renew, they die.
But what is the optimal number of hours of sleep each night? A number of studies have been done on this topic by many organizations, including the American Cancer Society that concluded that 7 hours is the magic number. They also determined that if a person get’s too much sleep (over 10 hours/night), they tend to have higher body mass indexes, are obese, and at a greater risk for stroke and various psychological diseases including depression. If a person gets less than 7 hours/night, they tend to be also be obese with a greater risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. If a person sleeps less than 5 hours each night, they shave off 15% of their life. Reason enough to figure out how to sleep those 7 magical hours every night!
The time that a person goes to bed and wakes up each day also impacts overall health and longevity. People who are living longer lives establish a sleep ritual of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and they don’t nap more than a quick cat nap of 30 minutes each day.
All this information is well and good if you’re a good sleeper, but what about those 25% of Americans who aren’t getting enough sleep? There are many, proven techniques to help people sleep, including the following:
Make sure your bedroom is cool (think 65 degrees)
Avoid alcohol and caffeine from 1PM on
Exercise during the day
No clocks or light in the bedroom
Play sleep sounds like crashing waves or crickets
Meditate before bedtime
Stop the electronic devices 2 hours before bed
A favorite sleep-inducing tip that works wonders for me if closing my eyes and saying “don’t think” over and over. It really works like a charm and there’s no need for sleeping pills.
The other trick is eating foods that are rich in melatonin, including these:
Eating these on a regular basis releases melatonin naturally into your body, so you can avoid supplements. Of all the sleep-inducing techniques, I believe that the “don’t think” chant to yourself works best!