Many understand that nutrition and physical activity are important for maintaining good health. However, the significance of sleep is often overlooked, even though it is vital for our heart and overall health.
A new study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session emphasizes the importance of good sleep for heart health, overall well-being, and life expectancy. With data from 172,321 participants, the study examines the impact of poor sleep quality.
The researchers defined quality sleep relative to insomnia: 1) ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night; 2) difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week; 3) trouble staying asleep no more than two times a week; 4) not using any sleep medication; and 5) feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week.
The results showed that individuals with all five favorable sleep factors were 30% less likely to die for any reason, 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer, and 40% less likely to die from other causes. Moreover, among men and women with all five quality sleep measures, life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and 2.4 years greater for women, compared to those with none or only one favorable sleep factor.
While further research is needed to explore the reasons for the observed sex differences, Frank Qian urges, “even from a young age, if people can develop these good sleep habits of getting enough sleep, making sure they are sleeping without too many distractions and have good sleep hygiene overall, it can greatly benefit their overall long-term health.”
Sleep quality can mean many different things. According to Stanford Lifestyle Medicine expert, Dr. Jamie M. Zeitzer, who is also Co-Director at the Stanford Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences, a newer conceptualization is the RU-SATED model developed by Pittsburgh’s Dr. Daniel Buysse. RU-SATED incorporates six conceptual sleep areas: sleep regularity, subjective satisfaction, daytime alertness, timing, sleep efficiency, and sleep duration. Instead of dichotomizing sleep into “good” and “pathological”, Zeitzer explains that the RU-SATED model allows for us to understand sleep as a continuum.
Like many health behaviors, sleeping well is cumulative over time. Whether you already me the sleep factors mentinoed, or are working towards healthier sleep habits, it is time we prioritize and understand the role of quality sleep for a longer and healthier life with quality sleep.