Sleep Rules That Will Add Years To Your Life, According To Science

Sleep — that passive condition you need every day but don't seem to get enough. Anxiety from work, screaming children, or finishing up that streaming series on Netflix can take a few hours off your sleep each night. That late-hour text message doesn't help, either.

A lack of sleep every once in a while can make your day drag as you empty your third cup of coffee. You might find it hard to concentrate, and your patience for that irritating coworker seems all the more thin when you don't get enough sleep. Over time, sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive issues and chronic diseases later in life.

Researchers are now paying more attention to quality sleep. In other words, it's not about how much time your head meets the pillow but how restful your sleep is in repairing your body and mind. The latest wearable health trackers can now look at how well you sleep and how much you sleep. According to a 2024 study in QJM, quality sleep patterns could add 4.7 years to a man's life and 2.4 years to a woman's life.

Sleep patterns that can benefit your health

The study interviewed more than 170,000 people about their health and sleep behaviors and matched them up with death records years later. The researchers considered five sleep factors in their measure of quality sleep. The first was whether or not people got the ideal amount of sleep, which was seven to eight hours. The next two factors considered how hard it was for people to fall asleep and sleep through the night. The fourth factor asked if people took sleep medication, and the fifth was about how rested people felt upon waking up.

For people to score the full five points for sleep quality, they would have to get at least seven hours of sleep, fall asleep easily and stay asleep at least five nights a week, take no sleep medication, and wake up feeling rested five days a week. People who scored five points on sleep quality had a longer life expectancy than those who had one or zero of the sleep factors.

Sleep quality also factored into the risk of dying from certain conditions. Those who scored five points had a 30% lower risk of all-cause mortality, 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular death, and 19% lower risk of cancer death. One cautionary note about the study was that the people reported their own sleep habits, so there wasn't an objective means to verify their sleep patterns.

How to improve your sleep quality

Sleep might not be a priority when you're young, but you'll thank yourself later if you establish good sleep hygiene now. Better Health Channel recommends considering some of your lifestyle choices that might interfere with your sleep. This might mean honoring your body's circadian rhythm by going to sleep and waking up at consistent times seven days a week. It might be tempting to sleep in on weekends, but your body will reward you by being more alert during daylight hours.

Going to bed after a tough workout, heavy meal, or a glass or two of wine might be your practice, but this can make sleeping a little rough. It's better to avoid any of these within two hours before bedtime. You'll also get to sleep a little easier if you establish a ritual of winding down. This might include dimming the lights, reading a book, or taking a bath to let your body and mind settle down from the frenzy of your day. It's no secret that your electronic devices can keep you awake, so put aside your phone and FOMO so you can prioritize quality sleep.