GETTING a good night's sleep is one of the best ways to ensure your mental and physical wellbeing.
And top scientists at Stanford Medicine have now found that your "sleep age" can increase your risk of long-term health issues.
Researchers describe sleep age as a projected age that links to one's health based on their quality of sleep.
They do this by monitoring the sleep characteristics of a number of patients in the same age group and calculating the averages.
And it is possible to have a lower sleep age than average which can lead to better health, reports Medical Xpress.
Generally speaking, people snooze differently at different ages, with changes in sleep quality being one of the first and most well-documented signs of aging and poor health.
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The good news is that sleep age isn't set in stone and we have some control over improving it.
Expert Emmanuel Mignot and his colleagues analysed 12,000 individual studies that reported characteristics of their sleep.
This included chin and leg movement, breathing and heartbeat.
Their goal was to develop a system that calculates sleep age and identifies variations that are most closely linked to death.
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Mignot, who has studied sleep for 30 years, says that hitting the hay is as important for our general well-being – considering we spend about a third of our lives sleeping.
The sleep expert found that long-term issues such as waking up for less than a minute without remembering it are detrimental to health.
He said: "Our main finding was that sleep fragmentation—when people wake up multiple times throughout the night for less than a minute without remembering it—was the strongest predictor of mortality.
"Though we see a link in the data, how it contributes to mortality is unknown.
How you can improve your sleep
You can improve your sleep in just a couple of simple ways according to health advisors.
- Stick to a sleep schedule
- Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed
- Limit screen time and sounds before bed
- Include physical activity in your daily routine
- Limit daytime naps
- Get comfortable and have a restful environment
"This is different from a person realising they were waking up, which happens during sleep disorders such as insomnia."
Mignot continued: "We can use the difference between their chronological age and their sleep age to predict mortality, based on the idea that older sleep age is an indicator of a health problem.
"And, indeed, we found that people with older sleep ages compared to their actual age are at an increased risk of mortality, based on the sleep of patients who later died.
"From other studies, we know that poor sleep is found in a variety of conditions such as sleep apnea, neurodegeneration, obesity and chronic pain. "
However, it's important to remember that sleep age is not determined and there is a lot of variation.
Even if you have an older sleep age than your chronological age, it doesn't mean that your mortality risk is going to be higher.
Going to bed and waking up at regular hours is a key to improving your sleep.
This means not oversleeping but ensuring you're fully rested.
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It comes after research found that the majority of heart attacks and strokes would be prevented by having a good night's sleep.
The problems kill 100,000 Brits a year, meaning tens of thousands of lives could be saved with the recommended seven to eight hours shut-eye a night.
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