The Sleep, Health, Longevity Connection

A good night's sleep could be the key to better health and even to living longer.

There has been mounting evidence that sleep may hold a key for health and well-being, but recent studies indicate that it may also play a role in how long you live.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job and on the road. Fragmented or insufficient sleep also raises levels of blood fats, cholesterol, cortisol and blood pressure – all powerful risk factors for heart disease.

Not getting enough sleep each night – or even getting too much sleep – may also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research conducted at Yale University. It was reported that men getting no more than six hours of sleep per night, as well as those getting more than eight hours, were at significantly increased risk for developing diabetes, compared to men getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Habitual sleep restriction could play a very important role in increasing risk for diabetes later in life, especially if maintained over many years and decades.

Now, recent studies have looked at the link between sleep and longevity. One study, published recently in the Sleep journal, found that people who get less than six hours sleep per night have an increased risk of dying prematurely; those who slumbered for less than that amount of time were 12 percent more likely to die early. Researchers also found a link between sleeping more than nine hours and premature death, but said oversleeping is more likely to be an effect of illness, rather than a cause.

Another study found that people who reach 100 are three times more likely to spend at least 10 hours a night in bed. Those over the age of 100 reporting they have a good night's rest were 70 percent higher than participants younger than 79 years of age. In this study, people who said they were in bad health were more likely to have poor sleeping patterns.

Sleep experts say most adults, regardless of age, need between seven and nine hours a sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety.

But as we get older, we tend to sleep less, and there is increased fragmentation of sleep; older people wake up more often and for longer periods of time during the night. For older people with health problems, their condition can have an impact on their sleep.

And most age-related diseases will affect sleep and will be affected by sleep. For example, painful conditions like arthritis or back pain will affect sleep by causing arousal during the night. Sleep-related breathing disorders, which tend to be more frequent in older individuals, may affect quality of sleep and cause sleep deprivation, resulting in additional health problems.

So how do we get enough of the restorative, replenishing sleep that we need? There are lifestyle steps you can take before you go to bed that can help you fall asleep and get better sleep. Read Dr. Cherry's Guidelines for Better Sleep for his tips. You can also listen to or read the summary from Dr. Cherry's May 6 radio program, in which he talks about natural ways to enhance your quality of sleep.

His natural approach includes Sleep Support, a combination of nine natural herbs, vitamins, minerals and extracts in one safe, effective, non-habit-forming formulation. It may be just what you need for a peaceful night's rest – and optimal health.