There’s more to it than 8 hours a night: do you know all 5 elements of healthy sleep?

Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep is an important factor in promoting longevity. This has been supported by considerable research, and various experts have proposed criteria for determining how much sleep you need. The focus is usually on quantity, and most opinion has settled at 8 hours as the magic number.

But new research suggest there’s a lot more to it than getting enough sleep. There are other qualitative factors to be considered — at least, if you expect “a good night’s sleep” to actually help reduce cardio and other health problems that can inhibit longevity.

As reported here, researchers identified no less than five elements:

  • Sleep duration – the classic measurement and, yes, 7 to 8 hours’ duration is the ideal
  • Difficulty falling asleep — no more than twice a week
  • Difficulty staying asleep — no more than twice a week
  • Not requiring any sleep medication
  • Waking up feeling well-rested — five days a week

In the research, each factor was assigned either 0 or 1 point. A maximum score of 5 points indicated the highest quality of sleep.

The study analyzed data from more than 172,000 people had answered sleep questionnaires between 2013 and 2018, as part of the National Health Interview Survey. They were followed for an average of 4.3 years. During that period, 8,681 — or about 5% — died.

Of those deaths, 30% were as a result of cardiovascular disease, 24% were from cancer and 46% from other causes.

Now here’s where the sleep factors come in. Those who had all five favorable factors were 30% less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who had zero to 1 factor. Those with favorable factors were 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer and 40% less likely to die from other causes.

The article quotes Dr Frank Qian, an internal medicine resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and co-author of the study: “We saw a clear dose-response relationship, so the more beneficial factors someone has in terms of having higher quality of sleep, they also have a stepwise lowering of all cause and cardiovascular mortality.”

The money quote: “If people have all these ideal sleep behaviors, they are more likely to live longer. So, if we can improve sleep overall, and identifying sleep disorders is especially important, we may be able to prevent some of this premature mortality.”

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