Health Care

The Rest of Your Life: How Quality Sleep Impacts Your Health and Longevity

A Woman Sleeps Soundly in Her Bed

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“Come to Me, all of you that are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

Rest is incredibly powerful. It refreshes and heals the body, mind and spirit, and enables us to function at our best. Rest includes not only a good night’s sleep, but time to relax and rejuvenate daily, weekly and annually as well. The world is full of cares that can make us weary. While physical rest is essential for a healthy body, taking time for mental and spiritual rest offers renewal deep within your soul.

At AdventHealth, we recognize the need to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit so you can live a whole life. We’re here to walk you through the importance of sleep, the quality of your rest, and how they impact your whole health with wisdom inspired by CREATION Life.

Rest for Success

In the classic Alameda County Study, which included nearly 7,000 people, researchers found that 7 to 8 hours of sleep was associated with the greatest longevity. They also discovered that subjects who reported too short (6 or fewer hours of sleep per night), or too long (9 hours or more of sleep per night), nightly sleep hours shortened their lives by an average of 9 years compared to people who slept the recommended 7 to 8 hours per night. Why? Because either too little or too much sleep throws the body into metabolic disarray.

Now that you know how vital enough sleep is to our longevity and quality of life, how do you know if you’re getting a good night’s sleep, and is there such a thing as a “bad night’s sleep?” There is a way to measure how well you sleep at night. This is called your sleep quality, and it’s determined by looking at several factors including:

  • The length of time it takes you to fall asleep
  • The number of times you wake up at night
  • The length of time it takes you to fall back asleep after waking up
  • The feelings of fatigue or restfulness upon waking up in the morning
  • Your overall satisfaction with your sleep
  • Your sleep quantity or how long you sleep a night (7 to 8 hours)

Therefore, your sleep quality depends on the quantity as a factor, not the other way around. Quality sleep and rest are dependent on all the factors put together.

Sleep for Whole Health

The quality of your sleep and rest is a major component that impacts your whole health, for better or worse. Here are some of the effects that poor sleep has on your body, mind and spirit:

Lack of Sleep and Cognitive Deficits

  • Emotional impairment
  • Impaired ability to think quickly and avoid mistakes
  • Impaired memory
  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Reduced ability to pay attention
  • Reduced ability to react to stimuli, such as while driving
  • Reduced ability to perform multiple tasks

Physiological Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  • Changes to vital signs (blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate)
  • Compromised immune system
  • Hastened onset and severity of diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Impaired reflexes (such as sluggish visual reflexes; oversensitive gag reflex)
  • Increased pain and sensitivity to pain
  • Linked to significantly increased risk of heart disease

The Long-Term Impact of Sleep Deprivation

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation include a higher risk for developing chronic diseases like diabetes, dementia and even cancer. It can also make your immune system weaker and cause an imbalance in your metabolism, which can directly lead to other health problems. If your metabolism isn’t working as it should, for instance, you can develop glucose intolerance and gain unwanted weight. Being overtired also makes it less likely that you’ll get enough physical activity.

Changes in the hormones that make you feel hungry and full can happen when you’re sleep deprived. Eating more and moving less can also lead to weight gain over time. All of these combined heighten your risk for chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

You aren't likely to die from sleep deprivation directly, but it can increase your risk of accidents which could be fatal. Some of the most tragic accidents in recent history have been connected to sleep deprivation, including the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, the Challenger space shuttle explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and American Airlines flight 1420 crash.

Tips for Better Rest

Rest involves your whole being, not just your body. With complete and regular rest, you will restore your health, enhance your performance and achieve an incredible sense of wellness. So many small — but impactful — bouts of rest can be incorporated into your daily self-care practice.

Here are some tips to include in your routine for “the rest of your life” that can also add up to better sleep at night.

Take a Silent Moment of Gratitude

Living in the moment is easier said than done. But in doing so, it helps calm your body and mind, allowing you to take a brief break from the daily stressors all around you. Being mindful of peaceful moments can help restore balance and make you feel whole.

You can use your moments of silence to pray, meditate, read or just unplug. These are all simple yet powerful ways to recharge and stay connected to what matters most. Some people like to keep a gratitude journal. You can write something you’re grateful for during your special time each day. Watch how many blessings you have in your life unfold on paper over time.

Take a Time Out

Removing yourself from a stressful situation or anxious environment might be all you need to take a mental and physical break. Think of it as your own little “time out” to connect with your thoughts, feelings and body. Even a short, calming prayer or pause can help you rejuvenate in body, mind and spirit.

You can also use this time to do some deep breathing exercises, mindful meditation or practice progressive muscle relaxation. Other ideas include doing something like listening to a song or two, a crossword puzzle or you can read something inspirational like a short verse — anything that works to ground you and bring you fully into the moment.

Plan a Relaxing Vacation

If you can't remember your last vacation, now may be the time to consider planning one. Whether it's a local staycation or a visit with family, vacations of any length help us to pause our daily lives and stressors. It opens our eyes, senses and perspectives to a new place, and it allows us to appreciate what we have to “come home to.”

Try to make sure the vacation you plan doesn’t leave you needing a vacation from your vacation. Schedule in enough down time so you can truly relax and come back rejuvenated.

Take a Power Nap

In many cultures, "biphasic sleep” — which includes two separate periods of sleep every 24 hours, with one in the afternoon and one at night — is the norm. CREATION Life reviews a long list of studies showing that power naps (15 – 20 minutes) can:

  • Boost memory
  • Enhance productivity and concentration
  • Increase alertness
  • Improve mood
  • Stimulate creativity and problem-solving
  • Decrease risk of heart disease
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Decrease stress

While napping might not be realistic for you every day, there's a body of scientific evidence suggesting you might want to sneak in a daytime rest when you can as it can balance out your circadian rhythm, helping you to sleep better at night as well.

Avoid Too Much Caffeine

If you're feeling overly anxious, stressed or jittery, caffeine can put more physical and mental stress on your body. If you're worn down or tired, look to the strategies above to rest your body. Or, get an energy boost the healthy way by drinking a nutrition-packed smoothie or some extra water to get your recommended 11.5 cups of fluid per day for women and 15.5 cups for men. You might be surprised that this alone can improve your mental alertness and energy levels.

Sleep Care for a Whole You

We recognize sleep and rest as sacred, and your whole health and quality of life depends on them. Whether you’re tossing and turning all night or struggling to stay awake during the day, your sleep care specialists at AdventHealth will work with you to develop a personalized sleep disorder treatment plan with expert care, useful tool and step-by-step guidance. And we won’t rest until you can. Your sleep today matters for your health and wellness tomorrow.

Learn more about our sleep care program and get connected with your personal Sleep Navigator today. You deserve to feel whole.

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