Eternal youth is a desire that crosses cultures and times. Think of Idun’s magic apples in Norse mythology, which kept the gods from aging. Or Ponce de Leon’s famous (and famously fruitless) search for the Fountain of Youth.
Everyone would like to live longer and look younger while doing it, after all, so it’s really no surprise that humankind has hunted the elusive “secret” of youth for millennia. But groundbreaking science is daily revealing what many of us intuitively know: the best tool in your anti-aging toolkit might just be your own pillow, blanket, jammies, and white noise machine.
In other words, sleep.
Yep, it’s true. Sleeping is not just restorative, it restores your ability to fight age as well. If you want to live longer and feel better doing it, then getting more Zs could just be the “secret” you’re looking for. How does it work? Let’s take a look.
Sleep Improves Mood, Which Increases Longevity
Nobody needs to tell you that a good night’s sleep can dramatically improve your mood. Science now backs this up, though, with studies demonstrating that “All methods showed a significant effect of sleep quality on mood and vice versa. However, within individuals, the effect of sleep quality on next-day mood was much larger than the effect of previous-day mood on sleep quality.”
That’s good news. It means that a good night’s sleep will jumpstart a good mood today. However, even if your mood was crummy today, it won’t have that big of an effect on your sleep. (Note that the same is not true of diagnosed anxiety and depression, so you should always talk to a healthcare practitioner about that.)
The even better news about good mood? It can genuinely make you live longer. Studies have found that “positive feelings,” “global life satisfaction,” and “positive affect” or attitude can all make you live longer.
Sleep and Heart Aging
Did you know that your heart can be older than you are? It’s true, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “According to a new CDC Vital Signs report, 3 out of 4 U.S. adults have a predicted heart age that is older than their actual age. This means they are at higher risk for heart attacks and stroke.”
That’s alarming, but happily, sleep is once again here to save the day. Columbia University reports that in “a study that followed older adults for five years, those with the most irregular sleep schedules were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those with more regular sleep patterns.”
That means you can literally lower your risk of heart disease by half by creating consistent, healthy sleep patterns today. Talk about an anti-aging strategy!
Poor Sleep Leads to Faster Visible Aging
Yes, we all want our hearts to function over the long haul. But we want to look good while we’re alive too – so sue us. Unfortunately, poor sleep makes us look less beautiful, plain and simple.
Studies show that skin is mightily affected by sleep. The latter impacts the former in a number of ways, from influencing how quickly the skin barrier recovers to dictating the effectiveness of UV light recovery. As if that’s not enough, “Good sleepers also reported a significantly better perception of their appearance and physical attractiveness compared with poor sleepers.”
Good sleep also prevents the development of dark circles and bags under the eyes, both of which are associated with aging. You can add a decade to your physical appearance simply by not getting enough snooze time.
Just make sure that you have a good pillow. Crummy or unsupportive substitutes for well-engineered pillows are never a good idea. They reduce the effectiveness of your sleep, and they also are likelier to cause both short- and long-term wrinkles. And if there’s anything that says “age,” it’s a wrinkle!
Sleep Predictors for the Aging Brain
Lastly, your brain’s age is most likely also impacted by your sleep – or lack thereof. New studies have found that “many months or years of inadequate sleep may lead to more serious and chronic problems with your thinking. For example, one study found that people who sleep less than 4 hours a night may struggle more with their thinking, learning, and memory abilities.”
More alarmingly, “sleep deprivation could increase your dementia risk by 20 percent. In middle age, even getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night may increase your dementia risk in the future.”
Since dementia and Alzheimer’s disease both decrease the length and quality of sleep, they can form a vicious cycle with insomnia that prevents your brain from living the long and healthy life it deserves. Even if you still look good on the outside, you’re nothing without your thinking cap, so it’s worth putting sleep first.
Reducing Insomnia With Proper Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a major buzzword these days. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s time you learned.
No, it has nothing to do with washing … although a nice shower before bed never hurt anyone. In fact, a warm bath or shower before you hit the hay might be an excellent idea, as it stimulates the body’s natural cooling-down process that initiates sleep. (For this same reason, hot showers early in the morning make you tired during the day. If you can avoid them, you should!)
Sleep hygiene is, however, a very specific term. As explained by the Sleep Foundation, “Strong sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene.”
If you haven’t yet prioritized sleep hygiene in your life, start doing it today. That means:
- Darkening your bedroom, either by removing electronics or putting up blackout curtains, or both
- Make it a quiet environment, turning off sounds or using white noise
- Dialing in your sheets and blankets so you’re not too hot or too cold
- Using a supportive pillow that keeps your neck and back healthy and doesn’t cause wrinkles
Do all of this, and you could genuinely age slower!
Restore Your Youth With the Anti-Aging Sleep You Deserve
Sleeping should always be restorative, and it certainly shouldn't AGE you. Sadly, one in three Americans lacks adequate sleep. Many of them don’t understand the basics of sleep hygiene, discussed above, while others are simply using the wrong tools for a good night’s sleep.
Think about something as basic as your pillow. What if you slept with one that eliminates pillow pressure wrinkles and keeps permanent long-term wrinkles from forming? That would go a long way toward reducing the physical signs of advancing years. One that also supports your back and neck will keep you comfortable, ensuring you can sleep longer and more soundly.
Together, this improves how you look and feel, and slows down the aging process overall. If you’re ready to jumpstart your physical system, improve your mood and live your best life, sleep is the answer – so unlock the “secret” by prioritizing it today.