Health and Healthcare Systems

Want to live longer? These 5 sleeping habits are the way to do it, scientists say

Changing our sleeping habits could add years to our lives – nearly 5 years for men and 2.5 for women, according to a new US study.

Changing our sleeping habits could add years to our lives – nearly 5 years for men and 2.5 for women, according to a new US study. Image: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Andrea Willige
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare

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  • Changing our sleeping habits could add years to our lives – nearly 5 years for men and 2.5 for women, according to a new US study.
  • The researchers assessed 5 indicators of quality sleep, including sleep duration and experiencing difficulties falling asleep.
  • They found that people who scored well on all 5 have a 30% lower risk of premature death.

Why do people ignore scientific advice and make unhealthy lifestyle choices? The World Economic Forum’s Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook finds that although the health impacts of a poor diet, smoking and not getting enough sleep are well documented, many of us still haven’t changed our habits for the better. But could new evidence about sleep change that? A US study shows that adopting five healthy sleep habits could add several years to your life.

5 factors for healthy sleeping

The research team analyzed data for more 170,000 people from the US National Health Interview Survey. They took answers to questions about sleep habits, and because they were able to link the participants to the National Death Index, they could examine potential links between sleep quality and mortality.

The team assessed five indicators of quality sleep:

1. Sleep duration of seven to eight hours

2. Experiencing difficulties falling asleep no more than twice a week

3. Having trouble staying asleep no more than twice a week

4. Not using sleep medication

5. Feeling well rested when waking up on at least five days a week

Depending on the respondents’ answers, each indicator received a score of zero or one. A total score of five indicated the highest quality of sleep.

Quality sleep can be hard to come by. Here are some healthy sleeping habits.
Quality sleep can be hard to come by. Here are some healthy sleeping habits. Image: National Institute of Aging.

Other risk factors such as lower socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol consumption were controlled for the purposes of the analysis.

Live longer with healthy sleeping habits

The results suggest that out of all deaths, 8% could be attributed to poor sleep patterns.

More strikingly, individuals who exhibited all five healthy sleep habits were 30% less likely to die prematurely for any reason. They were also 21% less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease and 19% less likely to die from cancer.

There were distinct differences between genders, too. Men with all five healthy sleeping habits had a life expectancy 4.7 years longer than those who exhibited none or only one of the five behaviours. For women, the difference was only 2.4 years.

Healthy sleeping is key to a longer life

The researchers say that more investigation will be needed to explore the difference between the sexes and how the life expectancy gains evolve as people age.

However, the study adds to a growing evidence base that links sleep patterns – and other positive lifestyle choices – with health benefits. Among the health issues that sleep can affect are our ability to fend off the onset of depression and its recurrence, the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, and the onset of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Good sleep patterns may also boost our immunity and creativity. This means that tackling insomnia and other problems that deprive us of sleep may not only improve our life expectancy, but also directly affect how we perform day-to-day.

The World Economic Forum covers healthy sleep as part of its Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare platform.

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