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The Power of Sleep and Its Impact on Our Longevity


Sleep has become an important topic when discussing the quality of life and health, and emerging innovations will improve our hours of rest

Recent technological advances and revolutionary scientific discoveries have shed light on one of many people's most important — yet elusive — life goals: to live longer and healthier. Instead of searching for a magic pill, scientists have begun to examine the behaviors that might help the next generation surpass the remarkable goal of living to 100. And they may have found the most essential pillar that can help us achieve overall health, well-being, and longevity: optimal sleep.

Scientists now believe consistent, high-quality sleep may be the key to increasing global life expectancy. Research shows that those individuals who successfully reach very old age — the lucky ones who live to 100 — generally experience optimal sleep throughout their lives. According to a National Library of Medicine study, those with greater longevity (85 to 105) maintained strict and consistent sleep-wake schedules that helped them optimize levels of healthy deep sleep.

How is Sleep Able to Increase Longevity?

Sleep gives our bodies vital support by helping them recover from the day’s stresses. It helps us recover from inflammation, allows our cells to replenish energy stores, and stimulates muscle repair. Sleep also replenishes our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. For example, poor sleep quality and short sleep duration both increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other endocrine/hormonal disorders because they affect glucose metabolism by up to approximately 50%, further reducing the quality of life and negatively impacting longevity. 

Sleep is also vital to brain function and is critical to learning and memory. The difference between consistently getting a good night’s sleep and not can decrease the brain's ability to retain new facts from 60% to 100%. Throughout the night, the cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — where dreaming occurs — and deeper non-rapid eye movement (NREM) allow the brain to transfer the information accumulated throughout the day from short-term to long-term memory. When these cycles are disrupted, it can cause problems with one’s concentration, memory, and ability to make logical decisions.

Over the longer term, those sleeping less than six hours a night during midlife face an increased risk of dementia, according to a recent study. In particular, persistent short sleep duration patterns at ages 50, 60, and 70 compared to persistent normal sleep patterns were also associated with a 30% increased dementia risk independent of other potential driving factors. 

Dr. Matt Walker, the author of the book Why We Sleep, affirms that sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our mental and physical health each day, and there is a direct correlation between how well you sleep and how long you live.

Be this as it may, many people still struggle with sleep. Some don’t even recognize it as a problem. They go to sleep and seem to sleep through the night, yet the sleep is inadequate, as they still feel unrested the next day, living in a permanent mental and physical fog. The hectic rhythms of modern life don't help, exposing us to high stress levels and harmful stimulating light at night. This might disrupt the circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness, causing the release of destructive, sleep-blocking cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and too much in your system can cause daytime fatigue and wide-awake bedtime crashes. Sleeping disorders are indeed a common problem in modern society. According to the American Psychiatric Association, insomnia disorder alone affects 6-10% of adults, and about one-third of adults report insomnia symptoms.

Additionally, as we age, our sleep deteriorates. The brain’s ability to generate healthy electrical sleep-related activity declines as we age, reducing time spent in deep and REM sleep. In short, older adults don’t suddenly require less sleep than they used to — their brains are simply unable to generate the essential sleep. This means that as we get older the quest for a good night's sleep can prove harder.  

Sleeping Better: The Challenge

Considering all the challenges, science has shown that one of the most important keys to improving sleep quality is establishing a sleep routine and sticking to it, including your "wind-down" time and when you go to sleep. 

Another crucial factor is respecting your circadian rhythm, which controls sleep/wake cycles. A healthy person who wakes up with sunlight in the morning will gradually become more tired throughout the day, and feelings of sleepiness will peak in the evening when it is dark. Thus, it is always important to remember that you need darkness to sleep and daylight to get up. Your bedroom should be as dark as possible and free of blue light from electronic device screens, which is stimulating and prevents you from winding down. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, the main sleep hormone, which neutralizes the effects of cortisol. Your room should also be cool, as your body needs to cool down to reach deep sleep levels.

Other habits you may need to change are:

  • Decrease your on-screen time before bed: people, on average, will be glued to a screen, like a cell phone, television or any other interactive screen, for a few hours before going to bed. Doing so disrupts your circadian rhythm and wakes your brain up, keeping your mind in overdrive mode. Instead of watching something on a screen, try meditation, reading, or writing in a journal. Eliminate watching any TV in bed before sleep and stay off your phone and computer for the last 30 minutes before going to sleep. 
  • Cut back on alcohol: alcohol is a great way to relax at the end of a long day, but, unfortunately, it also can prevent you from getting adequate sleep. While alcohol, a depressant, can help you fall asleep faster, it also contributes to poor-quality sleep later. Consider going to bed clear-headed and avoid the bottle for a night or two to allow your brain to catch up on some shuteye.
  • Understand your caffeine intake: this piece of wisdom is self-explanatory. Caffeine keeps people up and puts them on high alert. There is no question that excess caffeine creates nervousness and anxiety, two things that disrupt a good night’s rest. It is for the exact reasons that we love to drink these amazing, caffeinated beverages during the daytime — decreased drowsiness, increased alertness — that sleep becomes interrupted later on. Because everyone has a different threshold of what their bodies can intake for caffeine, you must figure out what yours is to monitor your intake throughout the day. 
  • Adjust your eating habits: what and when we eat are both factors that affect quality sleep. For example, if you take in excessive sugar throughout the day, your body’s ability to process it may work on overdrive. This could cause trouble in the sleep department. In addition, if you eat straight before bed, your body will be working on digesting your food when it should be shutting down for a good night’s sleep. Being mindful of your body and the nourishment you provide is good for mood stabilizing, health, fitness, and, of course, getting better rest.  

Tools That Can Help You in the Quest for Optimal Sleep

If you incorporate practices that effectively reset your mind to a calm and peaceful state before sleep, you reduce stress and help your body and mind transition from a state of anxiety and overdrive to a state of balance and deep rest. 

This opens huge potential for business development in this field, which some companies are already paying attention to in this market. Various devices can assist you in achieving ideal conditions for relaxation and improved sleep quality: 

Binaural beats: these gentle and soothing soundscapes have been shown to lower brainwave frequencies, shifting them away from the hyperactive fight-or-flight mode many of us experience at the end of a busy day. The racing mind will slow down, restless muscles can relax, and you may even reach a state of deep relaxation and deep sleep. 

Oura Ring: equipped with advanced sensors, the Oura Ring, developed by one of 2Future's portfolio companies, provides a comprehensive sleep analysis by monitoring your light sleep, REM sleep, and blood oxygen levels. It also offers a daily Readiness Score and Sleep Score that can motivate you to prioritize sleep and encourage you to go to bed early or avoid that last glass of wine.

Eye Masks: these masks effectively block out all light, creating a dark environment that induces melatonin production and promotes deep, uninterrupted sleep.  

Cooling Mattress Pad: designed to cool your body to a chosen temperature, a cooling mattress pad can facilitate a more comfortable and refreshing sleep.

Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses: by blocking blue light that can disrupt your circadian rhythm, these glasses help optimize your body’s melatonin, inducing sleep naturally. 

Mandibular Adjustment Device: if you experience movement-related sleeping problems like teeth grinding, or breathing-related sleeping problems like apnea, you might benefit from mandibular adjustment devices. These devices work by keeping your airways open and relaxing the muscles. 

Sleep Supplements: pharmacies offer various sleeping supplements, including melatonin and natural compounds like valerian. These supplements can assist in promoting better sleep, but it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating them into your routine. 

Making sleep a priority is essential for your overall well-being. As Professor Matthew Walker emphasizes in his highly acclaimed book, sleep duration directly correlates with your lifespan. In his words, “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your lifespan.” Therefore, believing you can neglect sleep and “sleep when you're dead” will probably lead to a shorter and lower-quality life. By adopting the opposite mindset and recognizing the importance of quality sleep, you will experience happier, more focused, less stressful days and add valuable years to your life. In short, prioritizing sleep is a critical investment in your long-term health and vitality.

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