You’ve probably heard some buzz about “true age” versus “calendar age” in the last few years. In a nutshell, your true age—sometimes called biological age—is calculated using a combination of your overall health and your behaviors or risk factors.
In other words, depending on how you live your life your true age could be much younger or older than your calendar age.
Some of the ideas surrounding true age which have popped up online might be a bit of a stretch. But the basic science behind it is rock solid.
And one thing is for sure; our behaviors do effect how quickly our organs, and we ourselves, age.
Now scientists say they may have uncovered a way for us to lower our heart age. And it starts in the bedroom, with how many hours of sleep you’re getting a night.
I’ll have more on heart age in in just a moment. But first let’s take a closer look at the importance of sleep for your overall good health.
Sleeping too little or too long harms your health
For years now, experts have debated what the optimal amount of sleep is. But most experts recommend seven to eight hours. And we know that regularly not getting enough shuteye can have some major consequences.
According to experts, when you don’t spend enough time in the sack snoozing it raises your risk for…
- attention lapses
- problem solving mistakes
- lack of motivation
- memory lapses
- slow thinking
- delayed reaction times
- libido problems
That’s not even the worst of it, either. Not getting enough sleep can also send your risk for dementia, cancer, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke skyrocketing as well.
But if you’re sleeping long hours, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re off the hook. Because scientists say, sleeping too much can be nearly as harmful as sleeping too little.
For example, sawing logs for well over the recommended amount of time could triple your risk of stroke if you have high blood pressure, according to researchers. And regularly sleeping over eight hours a night is associated with 34 percent jump in your risk for heart disease, according to a study in the International Journal of Cardiology.
Slash heart disease risk with this sleep secret
Which brings us to the new study on sleep and heart age.
Researchers examined the data from a group of 12,775 adults, ages 30 to 74. The volunteers had shared the details of their sleeping habits including how many hours of sleep they got per night. Their answers ranged from five or less hours a night to nine or more.
The scientists used a special algorithm to calculate each person’s individual heart age and a clear pattern emerged. Sleeping more or less than seven hours a night was associated with excess heart age, raising their risk for heart disease.
The folks with the “oldest” hearts compared to their calendar age were those who regularly skipped out on sleep. And those volunteers who reported sleeping seven hours a night were, by far, the least likely to have hearts that appeared to be older than they should be.
In other words, the seven hour a night sweet spot that most sleep experts recommend could be the key to a younger, healthier heart. Plus it could be the easiest way EVER to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Reset your sleep schedule in 3 easy steps
Now everyone has a bad night’s sleep from time to time, of course. But if it’s a pattern, you could be adding years to heart age. And that means it’s time to establish a new sleep routine so you can protect your health and your heart.
These three simple steps can help you do just that.
1. Stick to a schedule:
One of the very best ways to reset and maintain your circadian rhythm is also the easiest. Simply commit to a regular schedule for going to bed and getting up every single day.
It will make falling asleep easier. And your quality of sleep will be better overall which will make waking up not feel like a chore.
2. Look to the light:
Make an effort to expose yourself to natural sunlight in the morning either by spending a little time outside or at least getting it through a window. Sunlight falls into the blue-green spectrum and this will help wake you up and get your brain firing on all cylinders.
Then in the evening, you want to do the opposite to encourage the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Avoid stimulating blue light by switching off your electronics including computers, TVs, cell phones and any backlit devices for at least two hours before bed. And wind down with something relaxing such as reading and perhaps a warm bath.
And be sure to avoid any caffeinated beverages or foods, such as chocolate, in the evenings.
3. Create a sleepcave:
Turn your bedroom into a sleepcave by making it as dark as possible. Add blackout curtains to the windows. Remove the TV and other electronics, especially those which have lights of any sort on them when can interfere with your sleep.
And experts say the best sleep happens in a cooler room with a temperature that falls somewhere between 66 to 72 degrees.
Try spritzing your bedroom with some relaxing lavender spray if you typically find yourself tossing and turning. And for temporary help getting your sleep schedule back on track you can try melatonin. I recommend a fast acting and easily absorbable spray.
Aim for seven hours of quality sleep a night for a younger healthier heart and reduced risk for heart disease.