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Increasing Our Life Expectancy One Snooze at a Time

The number one underappreciated daily activity that can increase our longevity, in my opinion, is sleep. Think about your past week. What are your average hours of sleep every day? If you are an adult, it should be between 7-9 hours of sleep. How long did it take you to fall asleep? Hopefully it was 20 minute or less. How rested did you feel after you woke up?

Sleep is extremely important as it gives time for many of our bodily systems to rest. Many studies have linked decreased sleep to decreased arterial function, which ultimately can lead to premature wearing down of the lining or our arteries, which then decreases the lifespan of our cardiovascular system (heart). You can appreciate how this flow of events then links decreased sleep to decreased life span. Also, we have all at one point experienced how decreased sleep can lead to decreased reflex times, decreased mental processing, and a feeling of lethargy and muscle soreness.

We have spent enough time talking about the bad side effects of decreased sleep, now let’s talk about how to improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Below are some simple strategies to take back your “shut eye”.

1. Establish a Sleep Schedule

  • Make sure you try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day---yes even weekends.

  • Prioritize sleep. Don’t sacrifice sleep to work more, exercise more, or study more.

  • Don’t overdue naps!

2. Establish a Nighttime Routine

  • Try to follow the same routine before bed every night. Get pajamas on. Brush your teeth. Do some light reading.

  • Stay away from electronics and bright lights at least 30-60 minutes prior to bed.

  • Test relaxation methods. Try to focus less on “falling asleep” and more on relaxing your muscles and mind.

3. Reduce Sleep-Stealing Daily Habits

  • Avoid afternoon caffeine.

  • Avoid smoking and drinking

  • Get physical activity every day

  • Get exposure to natural daylight

  • Don’t eat late

Start with some of the above suggestions and see if you notice any improvement this week in your sleep quality and quantity. There are things on each of the lists that we all can try to improve, whether we are night owls, early birds, shift workers, or insomniacs. Perfection is never the goal, just improvement towards a healthier self. You have the power to improve yourself and now you have a little more knowledge.

Have a restful week!

Dr. Cindy

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