Logging in enough deep, refreshing slumber boosts your mood and recharges your batteries, and it makes your RealAge at least three years younger. And now there’s a whole roster of newly discovered benefits that may make you even younger, happier and smarter!
You’ll impress the boss: Topping off your “sleep tank” with seven to eight hours a night can put you in the running for that “employee of the month” award. There’s evidence that the longer you fight to stay awake (if you are sleep-deprived), the slower you work. Good sleep may help you stay employed. If it does, you’ll sidestep the eight-year biological age gain that happens if you lose a full-time job.
Your clothes will look better: We’re wowed by this number: 21/2. That’s how many inches smaller your waist will be if you regularly get seven to eight hours of sleep. A healthy amount of sleep fends off food cravings and controls levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which sends excess glucose to your liver, creating fat there and increasing omental fat (that’s deep belly fat). Deep belly fat bathes nearby organs like your kidneys and liver with fat and inflammatory hormones, and boosts your risk for major agers like diabetes and heart disease.
You’ll get more bang out of your next flu shot: If you’re planning to get a flu shot this fall (and we hope you are), make sure you get enough shut-eye. Lack of sleep reduces your immunity and boosts your chances 11-fold for getting NO protection from your vaccine. Getting at least six and preferably seven to eight hours of sleep a night helps your immune system produce more antibodies in response to a vaccine, boosting your protection. (Sleep deprived? For at least three days before you get the shot, make sure to take a multivitamin and get enough sleep.) Protecting yourself from the flu also protects against complications (like pneumonia), which send 200,000 people to the hospital every year and kill 36,000.
You’ll avoid dangerous micro-naps: Not to be confused with beneficial power naps, these “now I’m aware; now I’m oblivious” episodes happen when parts of your brain switch off for a few seconds. Yikes! This is a great reason not to drive tired. So get enough sleep at night, when your body wants it. Taking precautions behind the wheel, like being well-rested, makes your RealAge 3.4 years younger.
So, are you ready for bed? Keep your room dark and cool, avoid caffeine after lunchtime and practice a relaxing bedtime routine (a warm bath, a couple of stretches, a smooch or more with your sweetie). Then try these additional strategies:
Eat lean. Grilled fish with a side of roasted veggies could be your ticket to a good night’s sleep, if you eat them instead of fatty meats, chicken with skin or full-fat dairy. Eating big doses of fat, especially at dinner, make your brain less sensitive to orexin, a hormone that rules your sleep cycle.
Invest in ear plugs or a white-noise machine. Even if your room isn’t noisy. Just a little extra sound at night boosts your odds for bad sleep by 32 percent to 64 percent! The hum of a neighbor’s TV, the whoosh of traffic in the street, a partner who snores a little — sounds that are at levels no louder than a quiet conversation could interrupt your snooze.
Skip the scary stuff. Movies and TV shows that are violent keep kids up at night. And grown-up brains get rattled by disturbing sights, sounds and storylines, too. Keep it gentle at bed-time.
Get over this secret fear. Ready to fess up to a fear of the dark? You’re not alone. Half of all people with sleep problems share this phobia. Your best move: Find a therapist to help you get comfy in the dark. And use a red-toned nightlight (it doesn’t affect your sleep center as much as other colors)!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.