Golden Slumbers

More than just a good night's rest

Increase Longevity with Seven Hours of Sleep

Dispel the myth of getting eight hours of sleep a night.

 

Sleep less and live longer! This may sound counter-intuitive given the myth that we are supposed to get eight hours of sleep to achieve optimal health. One of the largest sleep studies involving more than one million participants over a six year period found that optimal sleep time for increased longevity is from six to seven hours for most people. Daniel Kripke, M.D. and his colleagues at the University of California San Diego have ample support for their study. Thirty of thirty research studies validated these findings (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/15/us/study-ties-6-7-hours-of-sleep-to-longer-life.html).

According to Dr. Kripke’s study, sleeping more than seven hours and less than five and a half hours has been found to decrease longevity. The research of Gregg Jacobs, Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School also validates that five and a half hours of sleep is sufficient to maintain one’s health. Dr. Jacobs' concept is called “core sleep.” While sleeping seven hours is ideal for longevity, there are other factors that can enhance the quality and depth of sleeping seven hours a night.  These factors include:

Stimulus Control: If sleep does not come within a half hour of lying awake in bed, leave the bedroom and do something relaxing in another room.  Use the bedroom for sleeping and sex only. This form of “stimulus control,” is one of the primary features of Dr. Jacob'sCognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia” program that was validated in his research at Harvard Medical School. This research involved over ten thousand participants with a ninety percent success rate. Eighty-five to ninety percent of the participants were able to reduce or eliminate their sleep medications.

Positive Sleep Thoughts: Dr. Jacobs has found some very effective positive sleep thoughts that are evidence-based in effectively bringing down hyper-arousal. Some examples of positive sleep thoughts include: "It is fine to allow sleep to happen within 30 minutes of going to bed." "It is natural to awaken briefly during the night since sleep is polyphasic." "We fall asleep as our body temperature falls." "It is normal to awaken before and after dreaming and that drowsiness and sleep will follow." Finally, "We tend to sleep more than we realize."

Sleep Scheduling: It is important to go to bed and arise at roughly the same time throughout the week. When we have a regular sleep schedule, we are able to build up our natural sleep drive through a neuromodulator in our brain called adenosine. Part of a healthy sleep schedule includes not taking a nap for more than forty-five minutes in the afternoon. Also, it is important to get at least twenty to thirty minutes of moderate exercise, especially three to six hours before bedtime.

Sleep Environment: Your bedroom needs to be cool, dark, and uncluttered to create the optimal environment for natural sleep. It is even important to cover up any alarm clock that may emit light so we have a pitch-dark room. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, calls sleeping in pitch-dark “Chocolate Time,” so you have a pleasant association with darkness that aids our natural circadian rhythms. Upon arising it is important to get exposure to sunlight to further enhance our circadian rhythms.  Remember to get more sunlight in the afternoon.

Post-Dramatic Stress Disorder: Another area of Dr. Naiman’s mindful sleep work includes becoming aware of our consumption of dramatic, stressful and violent entertainment through television, movies, news programs, and video games. Another assault on the senses that bring higher states of hyper-arousal is using social media, texting, and electronic devises that emit drama as well as unhealthy lighting too close to bedtime. Starting a couple of hours before bedtime, it is wise to begin to dim the lights, to not do work related activities, or use electronic devices. One can then enter into the later evening and embrace the “Sea of Sleep,” a wonderful term that Dr. Naiman uses to show the symbolic and altered state of sleep time. This is a time where one surrenders and allows sleep to transform and restore us to optimal health when we arise each morning.

Now you have your sleep recipe for longevity. Sleep six to seven hours each night. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Use positive sleep thoughts on a daily and nightly basis. Create an optimal sleep environment. Now you will begin to see how much better you feel each day and will be able to enjoy more days of life.   

Original Copywrite by Ed Glauser, May 19, 2012, mindbodymedicinenetwork 

Ed Glauser, M.Ed., is a clinician who writes about insomnia, pain, and stress.

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