Early to Bed, Longer to Live

Get to bed a little earlier and you could extend your life. That's what a recent study suggests.
In the meta-analysis, where researchers pooled together the results of a body of research, it appeared that getting at least 6 hours of shut-eye each night was necessary for a long, healthy life. Any less than that was associated with a 12 percent increase in mortality risk.

The ZZZs You Need
Ahhh, to sleep. Perchance to live a longer life. Scientists aren't exactly sure why spending at least 6 hours sleeping each night is so essential. It may be that short sleep triggers chronic health problems by stimulating people's appetites -- and thus setting the stage for unhealthful overeating and weight gain. Or a lack of sleep may increase levels of inflammation and stress hormones in the body. Whatever the reason, each night make it a priority to get enough sleep to feel refreshed and revived each morning.

 Fix your sleep right now with this bedtime checklist of do's and don'ts.

Behaviors to avoid:
  • Having caffeine after lunch
  • Having alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime
  • Watching television right before going to bed
  • Having a cigarette before bedtime
  • Going to bed hungry or when you've had a big meal
  • Going to bed before you are sleepy
  • Exercising too close to bedtime
Behaviors to adopt:
  • Using your bedroom only for sleep and sex
  • Exercising regularly, preferably in the morning or early afternoon
  • Keeping a regular bedtime and waking time, even on the weekends
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a leisurely stroll, soaking in a tub, listening to soothing music, or massaging your legs or feet before bed
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and deep-breathing exercises
  • Creating a comfortable environment that is conducive to sleep by eliminating uncomfortable bedding, wearing loose clothing, keeping the bedroom temperature slightly cool, and eliminating any bothersome noise or light

The Sweet Sleep Spot
Good sleep improves your mood, your immune system, and even your metabolism. But don't overdo a good thing. In the study, sleeping too much appeared to be even worse for longevity than sleeping too little. Getting more than 8 hours of sleep per night was associated with a 30 percent increase in mortality risk in the study participants. It's not clear why, but researchers suspect that underlying health problems may cause people to sleep extra long. Treating those underlying, energy-depriving health problems could be another key to living a longer life.

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