The lifelong sleep and longevity discussion — does sleep influence your longevity? If yes, how significant is the influence?
Proper sleep habits are vital for good health and longevity.
Getting enough sleep boosts immunity to help fight disease.
To live a long life, eat well, exercise regularly, and get plenty of restful sleep.
How big of a difference does it make if you sleep or don’t sleep? What changes in your body when you sleep longer? I will aim to answer all these questions in this article.
Do you believe that you can live over 100 years?
When we touch on the subject of longevity, we associate it with a long life. In my mind, longevity and energy management are more connected than just simply trying to prolong your life. Focusing on having more energy is a more short-term strategy. At the same time, longevity, on the other hand, is the reflection of a person who has heaps of energy, is healthy, has no chronic diseases, etc.
So, the goal of longevity is not simply to live longer but also to stay healthy and full of energy even once you’ve passed middle age.
One of the main reasons it is difficult to achieve longevity is chronic diseases. Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, respiratory diseases, arthritis, obesity, and oral diseases hinder people from continuing to age. These diseases possess long-term consequences, which often lead to a shorter lifespan. And sadly, over 45% of the US population has at least one of the listed diseases. Crazy numbers, right?
Furthermore, what is unfortunate is that once you have one of these chronic diseases, you increase your chances of suffering from multiple chronic diseases. This is the case for over 31% of the US population. These factors drastically decrease lifespan and the overall quality of life.
The building blocks of longevity
The significant factors form a pyramid:
The base consists of sleep, diet, and physical activity. It is the base on which everything depends; these main components have to be solid if you are aiming for longevity.
The middle section. Addresses glucose management, inflammatory response, and stress.
So as the shape suggests, if you want a healthy and steady path to true longevity, you need to start at the base — one crucial element is sleep.
How does sleep influence longevity?
Let's talk about simple facts and science. Sleep significantly influences your body, which, of course, affects longevity.
Sleep regulates glucose levels and hunger hormones. So, after a poor night's sleep, you may be craving fast food or just poor-quality foods.
Getting enough sleep clears toxins from your body. Some of us have experienced that our memory starts slacking off due to the lack of sleep. One of the toxins, called beta-amyloid, is associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Sleep also helps your immune system. Experts believe that getting enough quality sleep strengthens the immune system, thus decreasing your chances of getting seasonal flu or other annoying diseases.
Lack of sleep contributes to inflammation. While you sleep, your blood pressure drops, and your blood vessels relax. When you restrict sleep, or in other words, you don't get enough sleep, your blood pressure doesn't go down as it should. This lack of sleep triggers cells in the blood vessel walls that activate inflammation. And inflammation is one of the main causes of chronic diseases.
How do melatonin levels affect your immune system?
Some of you might think about melatonin only as the “sleep hormone” or what balances your body's circadian rhythms, the body’s internal biological clock, which can improve sleep patterns, which is, of course, important for optimal health. However, melatonin does much more:
Supports immune health. Melatonin provides vital support to the immune system, helping to coordinate immune responses to defend against a wide variety of threats, including viruses.
Anti-cancer activity. Scientists have found that melatonin sends signals to the immune system and the immune system “talks” back. This “cross-talk” fine-tunes and coordinates healthy immunity. It bolsters innate defenses that guard against a wide range of pathogens, including viruses and cancer cells.
Acts as a powerful antioxidant. Melatonin helps defend against various stressors. As an antioxidant, melatonin is over ten times more powerful than vitamin E. It also has 13 times the antioxidant capacity of vitamin C. Additionally, it is also 70 times more effective than vitamins C and E at suppressing DNA damage — a truly magical hormone.
So, people who do shift work have a greater risk of getting certain types of cancer. If you are a shift worker or just curious about what people should do to lower the risk of getting cancer, read more about it here.
How does aging affect the body’s melatonin levels?
As you might have already gathered, melatonin levels decline gradually over time. Though how does that affect you as you age?
Lower melatonin levels are related to lowered sleep efficacy. This is very often associated with advancing age, the deterioration of circadian rhythms, and the weakening of the immune system. Yes, all these scary things happen simply due to the lack of proper melatonin levels.
Melatonin exhibits immunomodulatory properties, and remodeling of immune system function is an integral part of aging.
So, we know that sleep quality worsens with age, which weakens your immune system shield, and, therefore, you are more likely to get ill. As you can see, poor sleep habits lead to an endless circle of poor sleep quality and poor health.
So, if you want to live a long and healthy life, you have to make sure to not only look after your body by eating well and exercising but also to remember the crucial yet often overlooked element — sleep.