Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
We’ve known for a long time that sleep is a vital part of optimal health and quality of life. In fact, every aspect of the human mind and body is affected by sleep.
It’s therefore somewhat surprising that not much research had been done to explain how sleep can directly affect life expectancy – until now.
The results of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics that followed 170,000 people over about five years have uncovered that those who maintain specific key sleep indicators live up to five years longer than those who don’t.
And the ‘secret’ is not just sleep duration but some critical habits that we should consider seriously.
The Study: Five Key Sleep Habits
The participants in the study done between 2013 and 2018 were given a questionnaire with five sleep habits. Each was assigned a number, and participants were scored on how many of the five habits they had. These behaviors were as follows:
- An ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night
- Difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week
- Trouble staying asleep no more than two times a week
- Not using any sleep medication
- Feeling well-rested after waking up at least five days a week
After the study, once cofactors such as preexisting medical conditions and unhealthy habits like excessive alcohol intake were removed, the scores were compared against National Death Index records to see if these sleep behaviors contributed to an early death from various causes.
The results were remarkable. The participants who had all five of these key habits for sleep were 30 percent less likely to die for any reason.
Regarding specific factors for death, 21 percent of respondents were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 40 percent less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer.
Additionally, individuals who maintained all five habits had a life expectancy of 4.7 years longer for men and 2.4 years longer for women.
More research will be needed to uncover why this specific gap exists between the sexes, but for now, the results of this study show very clearly how proper sleep and a healthy, longer life are interconnected.
How to Cultivate Positive Sleep Habits
If you feel that you don’t have some or any of these sleep behaviors – first of all, you are certainly not alone. Around one-third of Americans have trouble getting quality sleep.
However, there are steps that you can take to ensure you get that nightly recharge and potential improvements in longevity.
Sleep specialists and researchers alike continually point to sleep hygiene as a relatively simple way to establish a foundation for quality sleep, including:
- Making sleep a priority
- Keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule
- Getting daily exercise -even moderate exercise is defined by the CDC as 150 minutes per week of activities such as walking, biking, or even leisure swimming
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
- Avoiding heavy and spicy foods before bedtime
- Avoiding stimulating electronics such as blue light-emitting smartphones or tablets – these can interfere with melatonin production
What’s the Takeaway?
If, despite keeping up good sleep hygiene, you are still experiencing sleep trouble, it may be a good idea to consider approaching the issue from a cognitive standpoint.
Studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is the best long-term treatment to end the cycle of sleeplessness as it is a lifelong, drug-free solution. The treatment addresses behavioral and psychological factors that lead to sleep disruption, and programs that use CBT-I are available online.
- Qian,, F. (2023, February 23). Getting good sleep could add years to your life. American College of Cardiology. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.acc.org/About-ACC/Press-Releases/2023/02/22/21/35/Getting-Good-Sleep-Could-Add-Years-to-Your-Life?fbclid=IwAR05NUkwlD0dGeYp2UAU-szsmJ9tcRuQf7A_rIPH-KTV2UKlYmy43OIi0PE
- Roth T. (2007). Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3(5 Suppl), S7–S10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1978319/
- Cajochen, C., Frey, S., Anders, D., Späti, J., Bues, M., Pross, A., … & Stefani, O. (2011). Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. Journal of applied physiology, 110(5), 1432-1438. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00165.2011