- A new study found that people who had high-quality sleep had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes, compared to people with poor sleep habits.
- For men who had five key healthy sleep habits, their life expectancy at age 30 was 4.7 years longer than that of men with none or only one of those habits.
- Women gained a smaller boost from good sleep habits. Their expected life expectancy at age 30 was 2.7 years longer for women with all five healthy sleep habits, compared to women with none or only one.
If you want to improve your overall health — and possibly live longer — then add good sleep to your list of healthy habits to develop.
Preliminary results from a new study found that people who had high-quality sleep — based on five different factors — had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes, compared to people with poor sleep habits.
Good sleepers also had a longer life expectancy than those who struggled to regularly catch some solid zzz’s.
“If people have all these ideal sleep behaviors, they are more likely to live longer,” said study author Dr. Frank Qian, a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School and internal medicine resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
“If we can improve sleep overall — and identifying sleep disorders is especially important — we may be able to prevent some of this premature mortality,” Qian said in a news release.
In a study presented Feb. 23 at an annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, researchers identified five healthy sleep habits:
- getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night
- falling asleep easily most nights
- staying asleep most nights
- waking up rested most mornings
- not using any sleep medications
They used these factors to rate the sleep quality of over 172,000 people who participated in the National Health Interview Survey between 2013 and 2018.
This annual survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics includes questions about sleep and sleep habits.
After about four years, researchers used data from the National Death Index to identify which participants had died, in order to see if there was a link between poor sleep and the risk of dying early.
They also took into account other factors that could have affected a person’s risk of dying, such as socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol consumption and other medical conditions.
“Compared to individuals who had zero to one favorable sleep factors, those who had all five were 30% less likely to die for any reason, 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer, and 40% less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer,” according to the news release.
In addition, for men with all five healthy sleep habits, their life expectancy at age 30 was 4.7 years longer than that of men with none or only one of those habits.
Women gained a smaller boost from good sleep habits. The expected life expectancy at age 30 was 2.7 years longer for women with all five healthy sleep habits, compared to women with none or only one.
More research is needed to know why sleep habits affected women’s life span differently than that of men.
Because the study is observational, the researchers could not prove direct cause and effect, only that there is an association between sleep quality and risk of dying.
However, these results mirror other published research showing a link between poor sleep quality and an increased risk of dying from any cause and from cancer.
In addition, obstructive sleep apnea, a condition which causes a person to pause or stop breathing while sleeping, can increase the risk of
Dr. Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., said research like this has given us a better understanding of the impact of sleep on the whole body, not just in terms of cardiovascular disease.
“It’s a really exciting time in the world of medicine, as it relates to sleep health, to be able to examine these details and make our patients healthier,” Dr. Weinberg told Healthline.
She often talks to her patients about their quality of sleep, especially if they had a recent heart attack or have issues related to irregular heartbeats or high blood pressure.
“These are all reasons to start investigating their sleep issues, whether they are aware of them or not,” said Weinberg.
Some people can improve their sleep by developing better
- Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, even on weekends
- Making sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet
- Keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom, including TVs, computers and smartphones.
- Avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol shortly before bedtime
- Exercising regularly, which can help you fall asleep more easily at night
For people who struggle to sleep well because of thoughts like, “I’ll never fall asleep” or “what if I can’t get to sleep tonight,” cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) may be helpful.
If after changing your sleep habits you still don’t wake up refreshed most mornings, reach out to a doctor. A sleep disorder or another underlying health condition could be contributing to your poor sleep.
“I think concerns about sleep difficulties warrant a conversation with a doctor,” said Weinberg, who pointed out that many health insurance plans cover home sleep studies, which can help identify the cause of poor sleep.
“If you think about how many hours during the day people are supposed to be sleeping and doing that ‘rest and repair,’ you realize how critical that time is for making sure your body is as healthy as possible,” she said.