Sleep Hygiene Is The Foundational Factor for Longevity
Sleep occupies one-third of our life and has a profound impact on our physical and emotional health, and, as it turns out…longevity. Quality sleep (both deep and dream or “REM” sleep) is needed for physiological repair processes, for maintaining our well-being and appetite regulation, and for modulating the hormone and immune systems, among a myriad of other important tasks. Getting consistent sleep even prolongs our healthspan and lifespan, as many new studies have shown.
Poor quality sleep and/or an inadequate amount of sleep, on the other hand, triggers a cascade of negative consequences. Studies show poor sleep to be associated with an increased risk of various health problems including increased stress levels, cognitive decline, and the development of many chronic health conditions, hypertension being a well-studied outcome. One night without full, restful sleep for any reason, and we are quickly reminded how fast lack of sleep negatively affects us, just by how we feel. In one study, even one night of poor sleep in college students was proven to cause increased amyloid accumulation by the next day!
It can feel overwhelming deciding where to start optimizing your health. Here at Hudson Valley Longevity Medicine, we believe getting good sleep is one of the four foundational pillars for supporting longevity and prioritizing sleep through good sleep hygiene is a great place to start. Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that promote good sleep (in terms of both duration of sleep and quality of sleep). In this blog, we cover some of the key elements of sleep hygiene related to exercise, sleep time consistency, light exposure, bedroom temperature, caffeine and alcohol consumption, and the importance of a wind-down routine.
Key Elements of Sleep Hygiene For Longevity
1. Exercise For A Better Night’s Sleep
Incorporating exercise or increased movement each day drastically improves sleep. Make exercise a regular part of your daily routine, ideally outside, in the morning or early afternoon. We suggest avoiding vigorous exercise within 3 hours of bedtime as it can be activating.
2. Sleep Regularity
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Aim for 7-9 hours of total time spent asleep nightly and strive to go to sleep and wake up at the same times most days, even on weekends. Sleep regularity anchors our sleep and supports both sleep quantity and quality. Consistency in this area helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, thus regulating our sleep and even our hormones. When hormones are thrown off, our body’s stress response is triggered, leading to inflammation and negative downstream consequences.
*Total time spent asleep does not include time spent in bed before falling asleep or time spent in bed upon waking. For example, if it takes you around 30 minutes to fall asleep at night, aim for 7.5-9.5 hours in bed nightly to get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep.
3. How Light Exposure Affects Sleep
Getting adequate natural light exposure during the day helps reset our internal clock and makes it easier to fall asleep at night. Aim to get outside in natural light in the morning daily, even if only for a few minutes. Five to ten minutes of sun on your face is better than nothing, though twenty to thirty minutes of sunlight with a walk or another form of exercise is ideal.
At night, minimize bright light exposure and make your bedroom as dark as possible. Blue light from technology disrupts our sleep, both from the blue light itself and because technology in general triggers alertness due to mental stimulation. It is best to keep your cell phone out of your bedroom altogether if possible. If there are lights that you can’t turn off, using a sleep mask is also an option.
4. Optimal Temperature For Better Sleep
To fall asleep with ease, our core body temperature needs to drop. A cooler room around 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit supports better sleep. A warm bath is a great option before bed, as your body temperature will rise in the bath and lower upon getting out, naturally setting you up to fall asleep with ease.
Additionally, you may wake up easier in the morning if the room temperature is raised just before waking. If you have an automatic temperature system, you can raise the room temperature a few degrees just 15 to 20 minutes before waking time to support waking up more naturally.
5. Caffeine, Alcohol And Sleep
Both caffeine and alcohol have negative effects on sleep. The half-life of caffeine or the time it takes for just half the amount of caffeine consumed to no longer be in the body, averages anywhere from two to ten hours, but can take as long as even twenty hours. Try your best to limit caffeine to just the morning.
Alcohol also negatively affects sleep, impairing the electrophysiological structure of sleep, affecting biorhythms, and increasing insomnia. Studies show that moderate alcohol consumption shortens the REM sleep phase, negatively affects sleep continuity, and impairs the quality of sleep when consumed even up to six hours before bed. Consuming alcohol in proximity to bedtime can also cause snoring, obstructive sleep apnea in healthy people, and fatigue the following day. Do your best to generally limit alcohol intake, especially in proximity to bedtime for your best sleep.
6. Start Your Bedtime With A Wind-down Routine
Many treat waking and sleeping like a light switch like we can be “on” while functioning during the day, and as soon as we decide to sleep we expect to turn “off”. Adjusting from wake time to sleep time is more like trying to land a plane, it takes time and intention to gradually wind down.
Incorporate a wind-down routine in your daily schedule. 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed, begin preparing your body for sleep. Avoid stimulating or stressful activities and technology. Some go-tos to incorporate into your wind-down routine include a warm shower or bath, light stretching, a guided meditation, light reading or journaling, and/or a warm bedtime drink like hot water with lemon or chamomile tea.
If possible, avoiding technology for the first hour upon waking can be helpful as well. If checking your phone and email is the first thing you do every morning, this can lighten your sleep the night prior due to anticipatory anxiety.
Sleep Hygiene: Start Tonight On Your Quest For Longevity
We hope that we’ve inspired you to start tending to your sleep hygiene on your quest for longevity! Sleep is a biologically necessary aspect of our health and well-being. It costs nothing to improve, and it is the foundation on which all the other pillars of health sit.
The Peter Attia Drive Podcast: #221 ‒ Understanding sleep and how to improve it with Matthew Walker, M.D. – September 5, 2022
TED: Sleep is your superpower I Matthew Walker, M.D. – June 3, 2019
Lifestyle Medicine: Sleep Better. Live Longer.
The Beet: A Longevity Doctor Shows Us How To Live Longer with 6 Tips For Wellbeing – Hailey Welch April 26, 2021
Sleep Quality: A Narrative Review on Nutrition, Stimulants, and Physical Activity as Important Factors Monika Sejbuk, Iwona Mirończuk-Chodakowska, Anna Maria Witkowska I Nutrients 2022 Volume 14 Issue 9 10.3390/nu14091912.