TIME Food & Drink

This is What Alcohol Does to Your Sleep

couple toasting with champaigne glasses
Getty Images

Sorry to burst your champagne bubble, but drinking more alcohol often adds up to less sleep

You may want to think twice before pouring that nightcap—it turns out alcohol could be wreaking major havoc on your sleep. Even though it’s the season for spiked hot cocoa, extra glasses of wine, and alcohol-fueled holiday parties, climbing into bed after downing all those drinks can leave you feeling less than jolly the next morning.

Alcohol wakes you up at night.

While knocking back a glass or two might help you fall asleep faster, going to bed with a buzz may also lead to a worse night’s sleep. Scientists reviewed 20 different studies and concluded that the tradeoff to dozing off after consuming alcohol is waking up more easily later on in the night.

It cuts into your REM sleep.

REM sleep is essential to a good night’s rest. It has a long list of benefits, including daytime alertness, improved learning, and better long-term memory, as well as allowing us to process our emotions, saysDr. Philip Gehrman, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. The problem with alcohol is that it has a significant impact on REM sleep, which can hurt long-term memory and make us more irritable. “Basically, alcohol is a REM suppressant,” saysGehrman. “The more we drink, the less REM we get.”

Too many drinks can trigger heartburn.

And that uncomfortable burning sensation wake us up or keep us awake in the first place. Alcohol has been known to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle between your stomach and esophagus that’s supposed to be closed except for when you’re swallowing food. However, when you throw too many drinks into the mix, the muscle can relax and stay open for too long, causing stomach acid to come back up, which results in a burning feeling. Unfortunately, caffeine can have a similar effect, so if eliminating alcohol doesn’t decrease your heartburn, you may want to cut back on that too.

It sends you to the bathroom.

While “breaking the seal” may be a total myth, alcohol’s effect on the bladder is a real one. The fact is that consuming alcohol, a diuretic, can make you go more. Our bodies generally produce less urine at night than throughout the day, allowing us to sleep about six to eight hours without needing to visit the bathroom. However, drinking alcohol before bed can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to go, disrupting our sleep cycle.

Alcohol and sleeping aids absolutely do not mix.

Whether you’re taking a prescription or leaning on other sleep aids, mixing them with alcohol can be harmful and sometimes downright dangerous. Both alcohol and most sleep medications target the neurotransmitter GABA, which calms our nervous activity. Because many sleep aids and alcohol target the same neural system, drinking too much can turn into a deadly combination, inhibiting parts of the brain that are necessary for survival like breathing and heart beating, Gehrman says. While many new sleep medications may not have as large of a risk, the safest bet is to never mix any kind of sleep aid with alcohol.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Read more from Real Simple:

TIME Sex/Relationships

10 Ways To Sleep Better With Your Partner

bed
Getty Images

Learning to share a bed with a snorer, sheet hogger, or kicker can save your sanity—and your relationship

A good night’s rest can be hard enough to get on your own. Add in the challenge of sleeping with a partner who snores, hogs the covers, or can only nod off to the sound of the nightly news—or has issues with your sleep patterns and needs—and it’s no wonder so many partners are sleep-deprived. In fact, about 25% of American couples retreat to separate sleeping quarters, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That can be an effective solution for some spouses, but it can also take a toll on your bond and intimacy, says Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and sleep specialist and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. If his and hers beds don’t appeal to you, you’ve still got options. Read on for easy, expert-backed ways to navigate your different sleep styles and score the snoozetime you both deserve.

Your partner’s snoring leaves you staring at the ceiling

About 37 million adults snore regularly, according to the National Sleep Foundation, resulting in poor snooze quality for their bedmates and themselves. Men are more likely to saw away, and snoring tends to worsen with age. “The sound comes from vibrations made as you breathe through narrowed airways while sleeping,” says Breus. Congestion is often a trigger; so is drinking alcohol close to bedtime. Even sleeping on your back can be to blame, which is why nonsnoring partners often roll (or push!) the snorer over to get some peace and quiet. If addressing these issues doesn’t help, have your partner check in with a sleep doctor. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious but treatable condition that causes breathing to stop several times per night. In the meantime, Breus suggests the snore-free partner drown out the buzz by surrounding their ears with a wall of pillows. “The sound will bounce back in the other direction, reducing the noise enough so you’re more likely to drift off,” he says.

You can’t agree on room temperature

The optimum temperature for sleep ranges from 68 to 72 degrees fahrenheit, says Breus. But that won’t persuade a partner who craves a toasty-warm bedroom to stop secretly hiking the thermostat, nor will it stop a chill-loving spouse from throwing open the window. Call a compromise: Pick a temperature between your two preferences. The person who likes it warmer has the option of putting on another blanket or thicker pajamas, while the cold-preferring partner can sleep outside the sheets or duvet, suggests Breus. Upgrading to a bigger bed might also help. “A larger bed means more room, so the person who wants it cooler isn’t as affected by the other’s body heat,” says Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in New York City and author of The Essential Guide to Sleep for Your Baby and You.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

Your kids keep interrupting your zzz’s

When spouses don’t agree on how to handle a child who has had a bad dream or has a potty emergency, conflict can ensue—not to mention next-day exhaustion. “Sometimes only one parent ends up taking care of the child’s needs, and that can build resentment,” says Kennedy. “Or one partner is fine with the child coming into their bed for the rest of the night, while the other parent wants the bedroom off-limits.” Kennedy suggests reaching a solution outside of the bedroom, when you and your partner are rested and thinking rationally. “You need to be on the same page about how to handle this situation, so you set boundaries for your kids but also share the responsibility of a middle-of-the-night interruption,” she advises. Otherwise, not only will you both be sleep-deprived, the conflict can potentially shake up your bond.

You have different mattress preferences

Some people love a soft, sink-into-it bed; others require bedding as firm as a board before they can start counting sheep. Luckily, mattress manufacturers have caught on to this, and options that address both preferences exist. “The Sleep Number Bed is popular because you can make one side firmer and the other softer, so spouses don’t have to resort to separate beds,” says Breus. Memory foam mattresses are also couple-friendly because they mold to your weight and body size without affecting the partner lying alongside. You could also look into a split-king bed that features a king-size frame with two side-by-side separate mattresses. These beds can be pricey, but think of it as an investment in your health and relationship, not just another piece of furniture.

HEALTH.COM: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

You go to bed or wake up at different times

This one’s tricky: we all have an internal clock that generally determines what time we turn in for the night and wake up in the morning. Yet it’s almost impossible to change your personal pattern, says Breus. Make a deal: the later-to-bed partner promises to be extra quiet and not do anything in the bedroom that can cause the other to wake, then in the morning, the early riser promises to do the same for the partner sleeping in. “If you need to rise first, offer to not hit the snooze button too often, so it goes off a bunch of times and disturbs the other person,” says Kennedy. Similarly, night owls should use headphones to listen to music or watch TV while the other spouse is snoozing, advises Breus. Schedule time in bed to be intimate or to talk at a neutral time, like early in the evening or later in the morning, so one partner isn’t wired while the other is too tired.

You like it dark; your partner needs light

Preferring a dark bedroom makes sense; darkness is a cue to your brain to ramp up production of the hormone melatonin, which helps your body wind down, says Breus. Thing is, some people are conditioned to sleep with a light on. If you and your partner are in opposing camps, compromise by agreeing to keep a very small low-wattage lamp or nightlight plugged in, or use a clip-on booklight that can be directed away from the other partner, says Breus. And eye masks look silly, but don’t discount them—they can be surprisingly good at blocking out light. Breus also recommends a new type of lightbulb for your bedside lamp. Goodnight Bulbs use a special bulb that cuts down on blue light, the kind emitted from TV screens and smartphones that has been implicated in insomnia. Without that blue light, it’s easier for the darkness-wanting spouse to doze off.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Instantly

You’re a cuddler, but your partner craves space

Even the closest couples can have different pre-sleep intimacy preferences. “One partner might like snuggling before bed and falling asleep in the other’s arms, while the other feels crowded and can’t relax unless he or she turns away,” says Kennedy. While that might feel like rejection or a reflection that you two aren’t as connected as you thought, Kennedy cautions against viewing it that way. “It’s just a difference in sleep styles,” she says. Here’s a fair middle ground: “Agree to cuddle until the snuggler drifts off, at which point the other person can retreat to their side of the bed and sleep solo for the rest of the night,” she says. Or have a distinct 10 to 15 minute snuggle time, during which you two can touch and talk, and then officially move to opposite sides of the bed once the time has passed. You both have your intimacy needs meet and can easily drift off to dreamland.

He needs the TV to fall asleep; you like quiet

If one of you is conditioned to fall asleep to Jimmy Kimmel’s voice on late-night TV while the other needs silence, you might need to look into headphones, especially the wireless kind. A timer is also a good idea; agree to set it for 15 or 30 minutes, by which time the TV watcher will have sacked out anyway, says Breus. If the noise can’t be totally shut out, agree to keep the TV volume low, then bring a fan into the bedroom next to your side and keep it on all night. It’s a simple white-noise infusion that can drown out the voices on the tube. If you’re out of options, foam earplugs you can buy in a drugstore can be surprisingly effective.

HEALTH.COM: 13 Reasons to Have More Sex

You’re battling a blanket hog

Ever wake up in the middle of a sleep session to find yourself shivering because the comforter you had cocooned yourself in hours ago is now encased around your partner like a burrito? Sounds like you’re sleeping with a blanket hog—though it’s not necessarily a deliberate move on your bedmate’s part. If the tug of war over covers happens regularly, it’s no surprise you’re fatigued, says Breus. The solution is to have his and hers covers: one top sheet, blanket and/or comforter for you, and another stack for him. It’s harder for one partner to steal the covers from the other if you each have your own layers.

One partner tosses, turns, and thrashes all night

Everyone changes position at least a few times as they cycle through a night of sleep. But women tend to be more sensitive to their partner’s movements, and that means they’re more likely to be woken up by the kicking, jostles, or twitchy motions of a restless sleeper, says Breus. Layering up in separate blankets can help minimize the disruption, since his or her legs and arms will be wrapped under a different comforter and sheet set. Or consider a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic—the lack of springs cuts down on excessive bounce and motion, says Kennedy. A larger bed also allows you to maintain an arm’s length of distance, so the other person can thrash all over the place and not make contact with you.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Weird Facts About Love and Sex

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

5 Tricks for the Best Nap Ever

Businessman asleep on his office desk
Getty Images

When it's noon, it's naptime

Naps used to get a bad rap, conjuring up all sorts of unfortunate—and unfair—images of slackers, rambunctious kindergarteners in need of time outs, and AARP members looking to rest their weary bones.

Not anymore. A 2013 Gallup Poll revealed that 40% of Americans get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep a night; what’s more 43% admitted they’d feel better if they got more sleep. So it makes sense that we’d try to catch some extra zzz’s whenever (and sometimes wherever) we can.

And more and more people are doing just that. Companies like Google, Ben & Jerry’s and Proctor and Gamble encourage employees to take nap breaks. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is one of several colleges to set up rooms for napping. (Located in the school’s library, UM’s nap station is equipped with vinyl cots, disposable pillowcases, and a 30-minute time limit.) And Barclays PLC, a global financial group, got some unwanted publicity last year, when the Wall Street Journal revealed that exhausted interns were slipping into stalls to take “toilet naps,” using their phones as an alarm. And then there’s Google Naps, a parody of Google Maps, which can tell you the best places in your city to catch a few winks—from libraries to park benches.

HEALTH.COM: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Before you Type A’s get all judgy, know this: Feeling sleepy before bedtime is completely normal. Our body’s internal biological clock (otherwise known as circadian rhythm), which regulates our physical, mental, and emotional changes 24/7, also controls our wakefulness. According to research from Harvard Medical School, we usually feel alert during the day then gradually become sleepy as we move toward evening. But some of us experience a bout of mid-afternoon drowsiness, and a quick snooze can be just the ticket for handling that fuzzy feeling.

What’s more, studies show that there is a virtual laundry list of benefits to be had from nabbing some shut-eye (hey, they don’t call it a power nap for nothing). Among them: A nap can boost brain power, make you more alert, and improve your memory. Oh, it can also help your waistline: lack of sleep can trigger hunger and could lead to overeating.

And now that the weather’s turned ridiculously cold (in the some parts of the country, anyway), can you think of a better time to indulge in a little cozy midday shut-eye? Here’s how to get the most from hibernating:

Find the middle ground

As with many things in life, timing is everything. “Basically, the best time for a nap is as close to the middle of the day as possible,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, psychiatry instructor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “Before lunch is too early,” says Grander. “Lie down too late in the day and it will interfere with your nighttime sleep. Now it’s getting darker earlier and daylight has shifted, so probably not before noon and not after 3:00.”

HEALTH.COM: 7 Bedtime Behaviors That Will Help You Sleep

Keep it brief

Telling yourself, “I’ll lay down for however long I sleep” is not a great idea. You need figure out a set length of time for your nap and set the alarm. Ideally, a power nap should be 20 to 30 minutes. “You can go to 60 minutes, though once you go beyond 30 minutes, you get diminishing returns as far as improving brain function and reaping other benefits from your nap,” says Grandner. Plus, he says, if you extend your nap past 60 minutes, you’ll enter into a deeper (or slow-wave) stage of sleep and might wake up feeling groggy—which could affect how the rest of your day goes.

Sack out on the sofa

Your bed signals to your body that you’re nodding off for the night and can put you in a nighttime sleep mode. What you’re looking for, says Grandner, is a place that’s comfy, but not too comfy. The couch is your friend.

HEALTH.COM: 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

Keep it quiet

Be protective of your sleep space, says Grandner. You’re looking for a place that’s as quiet as possible (consider a white noise machine or ear plugs to drown out any noise). It should be dark enough to close your eyes, but not pitch dark. “You don’t want to confuse your brain into thinking you’re retiring for the night,” says Grandner. The temperature shouldn’t be too hot or cold—slightly cool is ideal for maximum comfort. (If you’re too hot or too cold, your body has to regulate its temperature, which might make it hard to relax.)

Coordinate the caffeine

It might seem counter-intuitive, but a 2003 Japanese study found that downing a cup of Joe right before settling down can contribute to a restful nap. Here’s why: Caffeine doesn’t kick in until about 20 to 30 minutes after it’s ingested. So you’ll wake up just as the coffee is taking effect—and feel wonderfully refreshed.

Simply resting can help, too

Looking for a doze at work? Grandner assures that rest, even without sleep, can be beneficial. Just relax, close your eyes, take deep breaths, and you’ll perk back up in 20 to 30 minutes. In fact, we may have found just the thing to help you wind down during your 9-to-5: Meet the Nutshell sleep pod, a wearable sack of blissful solitude, designed by a resourceful student at the New York School of Visual Arts. It’s just a prototype right now, but fingers crossed. (Hey, it beats hanging out in a restroom stall, right?)

HEALTH.COM: 7 Tips for the Best Sleep Ever

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME

You Asked: Is Sleeping In a Cold Room Better For You?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Here's the sweetest spot on the thermostat

Ask any insomniac about the perils of a hot pillow: When you’re trying to sleep, your brain loves the cold. Wearing a cooling cap helped insomniacs snooze almost as well as people without sleep problems, found a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and there’s also some evidence that yawning helps your brain offload heat before bedtime.

In fact, there’s lots of evidence for the cooler camp. A drop in your core temperature triggers your body’s “let’s hit the sack” systems, shows research from the Center for Chronobiology in Switzerland (and a lot of other places.) Some new research from the National Institutes of Health also suggests that sleeping in a cool room could have some calorie-burning health benefits. Healthy men who spent a month sleeping in a cool (but not cold) 66-degree room increased their stores of metabolically active brown fat, says Dr. Francesco Celi, chair of Virginia Commonwealth University’s division of endocrinology and metabolism. “Brown fat” may not sound very desirable, but it actually helps your body burn calories and dispose of excess blood sugar, he explains.

“We found that even a small reduction in bedroom temperature affects metabolism,” Celi says.

So if you want a healthy night’s sleep, crank down the thermostat, right? Unfortunately, it may not be that simple—when it comes to all of your below-the-neck parts, things aren’t so straightforward.

In Celi’s brown fat experiment, the men slept under thin sheets. What if you’re the type who likes a cozy down comforter? “Sorry, that won’t work,” Celi says, adding that some evidence points to shivering as the mechanism that brings on the increase in brown fat his team observed. His experiment didn’t keep tabs on sleep quality. So while the cold may be good for your metabolism and brown fat stores, you may be paying for those benefits with a night of fitful sleep.

That possibility is supported by research from Dr. Eus van Someren and colleagues at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. While a dip in core temperature before bedtime flips on your brain and body’s “time for bed” switches and helps you fall asleep, Someren’s research shows that keeping your skin temperature “perfectly comfortable” is important when it comes to maintaining deep, restful slumber.

Your level of “perfect comfort” is quite individual. But if you’re cold enough to be shivering, you’re not sleeping deeply, Someren says. His research shows that older adults in particular may benefit from warmer skin temperatures during sleep. In fact, both his work and more research from France suggest skin temps in the range of 90 degrees (!) may be optimal.

If that sounds nuts to you, consider the fact that thin pajamas, plus a sheet and blanket, could crank up your skin temperature to that 90-degree range—even if your room of slumber is only 65 degrees, Someren says. On the other hand, if your bedroom is too chilly or your blankets aren’t thick enough, blood vessels in your skin can narrow, locking in heat and upping your core temperature to a point that your sleep is disturbed, he explains.

Add in a sleeping partner, and things get even more complex; while you may yearn for a heavy down comforter, your spouse might prefer a thin sheet. “Temperature regulation is a tricky thing,” Someren says.

That’s a lot of bedroom science, but here’s the bottom line: keeping your head nice and cool is conducive to good sleep. To achieve that, set your thermostat somewhere around 65 degrees, research suggests. And layer up until you feel the Sandman creep closer.

TIME Transportation

Transportation Board Urges Better Sleep Disorder Screenings

Long Island Rail Road; LIRR
A train makes its way to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Jamaica Station in the Queens borough of New York City on Nov. 1, 2012. Frank Franklin II—AP

After a fatal derailment last year in which a train engineer was discovered to have undiagnosed sleep apnea

The National Transportation Safety Board approved sleep recommendations Wednesday for train engineers, following a report that the engineer of a New York train that derailed last year, killing four, had undiagnosed sleep apnea.

The safety board looked at five separate safety incidents and concluded that the Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road should implement regular sleep disorder screenings. The board urged railroad associations and unions to collaborate to create an agreement for how to sleep disorders in personnel and sent recommendations to recommendations to the American College of Physicians and the American Association of Family Physicians to bolster awareness and understanding of sleep disorders in the medical community.

“In the process of preparing this report, we noted a rising trend in incidents and accidents in passenger rail,” said acting chairman Christopher A. Hart in a closing statement. “Today’s recommendations, in combination with those adopted during our investigations and earlier recommendations reiterated today, have the potential to reverse this trend–but only if they are acted upon.”

Since the board does not have the authority to enforce its recommendations, it also encouraged to Federal Railroad Administration to act upon it’s recommendations.

TIME Aging

16 Unexpected Ways to Add Years to Your Life

walking dog
Getty Images

Try these surprising habits that could help you live longer

The average American’s life expectancy is 78.7 years. Whether you reach that age—or better yet, exceed it—largely depends on your genes, but there are also many keys to longevity that are totally within your control. Some you probably already know about, like following a nutritious diet, exercising often, staying away from cigarettes, and maintaining a healthy weight. Other habits are a little less obvious. Read on for some surprising habits and lifestyle choices that could add years to your life.

Adopt a furry friend

Your four-legged companion may be helping you live a longer life, according to a review published in the journal Circulation. Researchers believe owning a dog might keep the owner more active and, as a result, lowers the risk of heart disease.

“Dog owners are who walk their dogs are more likely to meet recommendations for daily physical activity (150 minutes weekly),” says Eric A. Goedereis, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Webster University in St. Louis, MO. Owning a pet also reduces stress, which may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, he adds.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Ways Pets Improve Your Health

Have more sex

A roll in the hay may be the most pleasant way to extend your life. Several studies suggest there is a link between more orgasms and longevity. In a 1997 study, men who had more orgasms were less likely to die of heart disease than those who had less. While the study can’t prove cause and effect (maybe healthier people are more likely to have sex), sex can be beneficial for health. “Of course sex feels good, but it also gives us the opportunity to work out nearly every muscle in the body and connect with another person,” says Goedereis. “Sex has also been shown to boost the body’s immune response, reduce stress, and even control one’s appetite, among other things.” Two to three orgasms a week yields best benefits. Doctor’s orders.

HEALTH.COM:
13 Healthy Reasons to Have More Sex

Floss every day

Daily flossing not only gets rid of food trapped between your teeth but also removes the film of bacteria that forms before it has a chance to harden into plaque—something your toothbrush cannot do. Periodontal disease from lack of flossing can trigger low-grade inflammation, which increases the risk of early heart attack and stroke. Numerous studies link oral bacteria to cardiovascular disease. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day.

Have a positive attitude

Think being mean and ornery is what it takes to live to 100? That’s what scientists at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx, New York thought until they studied 243 centenarians. When the researchers assessed their personalities, they discovered that most had a positive outlook on life, and were generally easygoing, optimistic, and full of laughter.

If nothing else, try to laugh more often—go to comedy shows, take occasional breaks at work to watch silly videos on YouTube, or spend time with people who make you smile. “Laughter helps decrease blood pressure, reduce blood sugars, dull pain, and lower stress, all of which can make your body healthier,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.

Be social

Going to the movies or out for coffee with friends may help all of you grow old together. An analysis by Brigham Young University looked at data from 148 studies and found a clear connection between social ties and lifespan. “People with stronger social relationships have a 50% greater chance of continued living as compared to those with weaker relationships,” says Lombardo. “Loneliness can also compromise your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease.”

HEALTH.COM: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Go nuts

Snack on cashews, sprinkle chopped walnuts on your salad, stir almonds into your yogurt—however you eat them, it may be helpful. People who ate nuts several times a week had a reduced mortality risk compared with those who ate nuts less frequently (or at all), according to a 2013 New England Journal of Medicine study.

Nuts are high in antioxidants, fiber, and unsaturated fatty acids, and they help lower your risk of heart disease. “They are known to possibly improve certain risk factors for diabetes as well,” says Keri Gans, RD, a New York-based nutrition consultant. As a healthy but high-calorie snack, limit portion sizes to 1 ounce, or about 20 nuts.

Find your purpose

Regardless of your age, finding purpose in life may help you live long enough to make a difference. In a study of 6,000 people, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York found that people who had a greater sense of purpose were less likely to die during the 14-year study than those who were less focused on a goal. “People who have a sense of purpose in their lives may be more likely to take steps to be healthier,” says Lombardo. To develop a sense of purpose, focus on the positive impact you are making at work or at home instead of getting caught up with every little detail being perfect, she suggests.

Start your mornings with coffee

Sipping a mug of coffee not only jumpstarts your day, but your longevity as well. Studies show coffee reduces the risk of a number of chronic diseases. “Drinking coffee may decrease your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Gans. Just go easy: too much caffeine can trigger anxiety and insomnia, or interfere with calcium absorption. And hold the whipped toppings like syrups and cream to avoid canceling out the health benefits.

Snooze soundly

Quality of sleep also plays in role in how long you may live. Multiple studies have linked sleep deprivation with an increased risk of death, and other research has shown that a lack of shuteye may raise risk of type 2 diabetes. “Some people may need more or less sleep than others, but research suggests that seven hours is probably enough,” says Goedereis. To sleep soundly, establish a nighttime routine and stick to a schedule, even on weekends.

See the glass as half full

An Illinois study found clear evidence that happy people experience better health and live longer than their unhappy peers. “Depression, pessimism, and stress predict shorter lifespans,” says Lombardo. “These mental states tend to cause a stress reaction within the body, which can weaken the immune system. Happiness, on the other hand, tends to result in less stress hormones.” Take time to experience gratitude every day. “It’s one of the quickest and longest-lasting ways to boost happiness,” she adds.

Ditch soda

Even if you’re not overweight, drinking soda may be shortening your lifespan, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. The five-year study found a link between soda intake and shortening of the telomeres, which are caps on the ends of chromosomes directly linked to aging. Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides and are thought to be an aging “clock.” This study did not find the same link with diet soda, but other research has associated heavy diet soda drinking to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and depression—all potential life-shorteners.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

Have a little bit of wine every day

Drinking a little less than one glass of wine a day is linked to a lower rate of cardiovascular death from all causes when compared to abstaining from all alcohol, according to a Dutch study. Researchers found that light alcohol consumption resulted in longer life expectancy at age 50. Drinking less than or equal to 20 grams per day of alcohol (that’s a little less than a serving of beer, wine, or spirits) was associated with a 36% lower risk of all causes of death and a 34% lower risk of cardiovascular death. And sorry, beer and cocktail fans: the same results were not found with light-to-moderate alcohol intake of other types.

Run 5 minutes a day

No need to run for an hour a day to reap the life-lengthening benefits. A new study shows running just 5 to 10 minutes a day increases your life expectancy by reducing the risk of death from heart disease by 58% and dropping the overall risk of death by 28%. It holds true even if you’re a slowpoke. Those who ran at less than 6 miles per hour only once or twice a week experienced clear benefits, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers credit better lung and heart function with the extended lifespan. Consistency works best, however: Exercisers who ran regularly for an average of six years reaped the greatest benefits.

Eat lots of fish

A diet heavy in omega-3-rich foods may add years to your life, says a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study of more than 2,600 adults, those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids—found in salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, and lake trout—lived more than two years longer on average than those with lower blood levels. The study didn’t prove that being a fish-eater increases longevity, but suggests a connection. Researchers found that people with high omega-3 levels reduced their overall risk of death by any cause by up to 27% compared to those with the lowest levels, and that they had a 35% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Experts recommend at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week.

Stop sitting so much

Simply stand up more during the day and you’ll boost your longevity by increasing the length of your telomeres, according to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The study measured the effects of sitting time and physical activity among 49 sedentary, overweight participants. Researchers found increased telomere length—end caps of chromosomes that link directly to longevity—in the red blood cells of individuals participating in a 6-month physical activity intervention.

Volunteer

Helping others not only feels good, it may help you live longer, too. A review of data from 40 published papers found a 20% lower risk of death than non-volunteers. The findings, published in the journal BMC Public Health, found that those who volunteered experienced lower levels of depression, better life satisfaction, and overall enhanced wellbeing. Another study found that retirees who volunteered at least 200 hours in the prior year were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers, lowering their risk of heart disease. Lend a hand for a win-win result.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Research

This Is Your Brain on 10 Years of Working the Night Shift

night shift
Getty Images

Why chronic shift work may age your brain almost 7 years

Hourly shift work has been linked to all kinds of ills, from obesity to heart attack, and now a new study shows it might also have serious implications for your brain.

The study in Occupational & Environmental Medicine looked at more than 3,000 people living in France, about half of whom had experience working shifts. Those who had done so, either in the past or present, had lower scores on tests of memory, processing speed and overall brain power than those who worked normal office hours, the study finds.

These effects persisted even after researchers controlled for effects of sleep deprivation and they got even stronger after people had worked nights for 10 or more years. Those long-term shift workers had worse memory than those who had always worked days, plus cognitive deficits so steep that the study authors equated them to 6.5 years of age-related decline.

There is a bit of good news, though. After stopping shift work for five years, cognitive abilities returned to levels of people who had never worked shifts.

So why does shift work appear to be so bad for the brain? The authors stress that the study is observational, so it can’t determine that shift work causes brain decline. But they do have a favorite theory: “If it’s not sleep,” says Dr. Philip Tucker, study co-author and senior lecturer in the psychology department at Swansea University in the U.K., “the strongest candidate would be destruction of circadian rhythms.”

Working the night shift challenges the body’s natural circadian clock, which is linked to all sorts of health problems. Though the study didn’t look at the brain structures of the participants, a small study in 2001 found that flight attendants who were chronically jet lagged actually had smaller temporal lobes.

Shift workers, who sleep during the day, may also have a vitamin D deficiency, the study authors say, or may be more prone to metabolic disorder—but the disruption of circadian rhythms is still the main contender.“You could argue,” says Tucker, “that if you start messing about with those clocks, there’s going to be all sorts of effects.”

Read next: The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

TIME Business

How You Can Function on Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep

bed
Getty Images

"When I get a few energy slumps, I rely on some tried and true solutions"

Answer by Alexandra Damsker on Quora.

I don’t have a multi-million dollar company (yet), but I’m one of those CEOs who function on 3-5 hours of sleep.

No, there aren’t any drugs involved, nor is there poor management (as far as I know). It’s a variety of things.

First, reduce TV. You sleep much better, and do much more work, when you don’t watch much TV. Your brain is actually less active watching TV than when it’s sleeping. This dullness is addictive. My daughter becomes a giant mess when she watches too much TV — huge tantrums, crying, screaming, complete meltdown. She doesn’t want to eat or listen. It’s like she’s addicted, and I’m taking away her drug. My husband is very similar, without the actual crying. He just sort of grunts more. I’m not certain it happens with everyone, but I’d be surprised if most people aren’t highly susceptible to this “one more show” mentality, and the gape-mouthed stare is the death knell for good work, good eating, good sleep or good play.

Second, limit carbohydrates. For me, anyway — they just make me sleepy.

Third, limit meetings. Same as carbs. Blah blah blah — hate just droning on, or being droned at. Nothing good comes of this.

Fourth, I actually have specific hours I need to sleep to do well, not a specific number of hours. It’s a quirk of my circadian rhythm, and it’s been that way since my 20s. If I can sleep from 4 to 8am, I’m very happy. However, my home life doesn’t permit that, so I usually end up sleeping from 1-4am, and 5-6:30am. I have a hard time sleeping in the early morning hours, and love the morning (once I drag myself out of bed).

Fifth, when I get a few energy slumps, I rely on some tried and true solutions: I switch tasks to things I really like (so I save that stuff for sleepy times). I hang out on Quora (dangerous, because I’m on here WAY longer than I should be. There should be a stopwatch or a clock on this thing…!) I go outside. I email or chat with someone personal (not usually on the phone—hate the phone.) I play a set number of solitaire hands. I read the news or, if read, one of three gossip sites I frequent (I’m not proud.) Or, if all else fails, I take a nap. I usually sleep more on slower days or if nothing is happening on a weekend, but it works out.

Sixth, and most important, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE WHAT I DO. I love it so much! I am so incredibly happy that I get to do my job. I have days that suck. I have strings of days that suck. But they are just sucky days — my life is still pretty spectacularly awesome. It makes me excited to wake up, to take the conference call I had today set at the incredibly ludicrous time of 6:30am, to take calls and go to meetings while visiting family, to get over shyness and speak to the stranger next to me on the airplane, to spend the evening playing with my daughter knowing that I’ll be working on a document until 4 am and begging Kinko’s for something (and I HATE begging.)

I mostly just think I am a very lucky person. I have a (pretty) supportive spouse, a fantastic kid, a wonderful dog. I’m healthy, I’m privileged to run a company that is about to split into 2, with customers that are acolytes that spare me marketing dollars. People believe in me and my ability to lead, they believe in what I’ve created. I do something that I think makes a difference in the world. And today I’m having a pretty good hair day.

I don’t really worry about the sleep that I get. I get what I can, and do what I have to do every day. Everyone around me is trying to help me out (for the most part), I keep my priorities in order (my kid never suffers, I can’t make myself sick), and I just focus on what I have immediately ahead and in the near future, and what I need to get those done. I truly believe it will all benefit everyone in the end, and my support group does, too.

And that’s how I do it.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do CEOs who sleep for only 4-5 hours daily manage to function and run multi-million dollar companies?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Ways to Deal With the End of Daylight Saving Time

clock
Getty Images

How to make the transition to Standard Time as seamless as possible

If you’ve been starting your day in near-total darkness each morning, relief is in sight: November 2 marks the end of Daylight Saving Time (in most of the country) and the day when your clocks “fall back” an hour. That means you’ll get a bonus hour of light in the morning, but lose an hour in the afternoon.

Although the prospect of leaving work when it’s dark out may be depressing, sleep specialist and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, reminds us to count our blessings. “Believe it or not, people have an easier time adjusting to this time change than to the one in March,” Breus says. “That’s because we gain an hour of sleep in the fall, but end up losing an hour when we ‘spring ahead.’”

Here, how to make the transition to Standard Time as seamless as possible, plus some silver linings to the time change.

Don’t change your routine on November 1

The night before the time change, just go to bed when you usually do, Breus advises. “Most people are already sleep deprived, so in all likelihood you could use the extra hour of sleep you’ll get,” he says. “Think of it as your own little hour-long staycation.”

HEALTH.COM: 10 Weird Causes of Winter Depression

Use it as a sleep hygiene checkup

You can use the time change to diagnose your sleep habits. Before bedtime on November 1, set your clock back an hour (cell phones will be updated automatically at 2am), and keep your alarm set for your regular wake up time. “If you find yourself sleeping for the entire extra hour in the morning, that’s a sign you’re sleep deprived,” Breus says.

If, on the other hand, you wake up before your alarm goes off, that’s your body telling you that you’re getting enough sleep. “The fall time change is a once-a-year opportunity to calibrate your ideal bedtime.”

HEALTH.COM: 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

After the time change, maximize your sun exposure…

Even after the fall back, it’s not uncommon to feel out of sorts the first few days of November. It doesn’t help that the sun will start setting close to 5pm. So what should you do?

While your afternoon mood might take a hit because of the looming darkness, Breus advises taking advantage of the extra sunlight in the morning, which can give you a mood boost to start the day. If you tend to work out in the evenings, switch your routine to the morning. At the very least, make an effort get outside during your lunch break, if only just to take a walk around the block.

…and maybe boost your indoor light

If you’re still feeling draggy in the afternoon after a few days, consider investing in a light therapy box, which can counteract your brain’s inclination to start producing melatonin when the sun goes down. Just be sure to look for one that provides alertness-promoting blue light. “Blue light mimics sunlight and tells the brain to stop producing melatonin, the chemical that starts your brain’s sleep engine,” Breus explains.

If you need a little burst to get over that 4pm hump at work, click on the light and let it shine for no more than 20 minutes. “That amount should be enough to make you feel more alert for a couple hours,” Breus explains. If you want to get to bed at a reasonable hour, be sure not to use the light after 7pm; any later than that can interfere with your sleep.

Breus likes the Philips goLITE BLU ($137, amazon.com), but Amazon has a range of light therapy box styles and sizes. Don’t want to buy another gadget? Definity Digital by LightingScience makes alertness-promoting bulbs you can install in most household fixtures ($70, amazon.com).

HEALTH.COM: 7 Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder

And if you have kids…

The downside to falling back is that small children, already allergic to spending extra time in bed, may actually start waking up an hour earlier. (I foresee this gloomy prospect in my own household, where my 5-year-old and 2-year-old, already attuned to a 6 am wake up, will go right on waking up at the same time, which will actually be 5 am come November 2.)

Here’s how to get them to get with the program. “Starting about a week or so before the time change, every two days put your kids to bed 15 minutes later, in a stair-stepping pattern,” Breus says.

In other words, on October 25, put your kids to bed 15 minutes later. Then again on October 27 and October 29, so that by October 31, they’re going to bed an hour later. (Added bonus: an extra hour of candy-fueled capering on Halloween!) When November 2 arrives, they’ll be acclimated to going to bed an hour later, and—in theory, at least—waking up an hour later that morning, which will wash out when the clocks reset.

And if the bedtime rollback plan doesn’t take? Breus suggests making the morning of November 2 a special occasion. The night before, lay out books or games the kids can play with quietly when they wake up. Set an alarm in their room(s) for when you’ll wake up and tell them it’s bonus playtime and they don’t have to bother mom and dad!

If the thought of your kids quietly reading and biding their time until the sun comes up sounds preposterous, don’t hesitate to bring out the big guns. “Even setting your kids up to watch a video in the early morning is okay in this instance,” says Breus. “In all likelihood, the parents could use that extra hour of sleep, so do whatever it takes to take advantage of it.”

HEALTH.COM: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Gadgets

5 Gadgets That Will Help You Sleep Better

If you wish you could get a better night’s sleep, you’re not alone. Sleep experts say adults should try to get seven to eight hours per night.

Of course, not all of us do – according to Gallup, 26% of us get six hours of sleep a night and another 14% get five hours or less. And it affects how well we can concentrate during the day, how well we can remember things and puts us at greater risk for automobile accidents. Is it any wonder that the U.S. Center for Disease Control has called insufficient sleep a public health epidemic?

Serious sleep problems still require the services of a trained doctor. But for smaller issues – off-sync sleep schedules, difficulty waking up and challenges falling asleep – modern technology may be able to help. Here are five of Techlicious’s picks for the best sleep gadgets available.

Misfit Beddit

misfit-beddit-on-bed-510px
Misfit

The Misfit Beddit is one of the easiest ways to turn your existing bed into a “smart” bed. It’s a thin sensor pad that lays flat under your sheets to measure your movement throughout the night. It tracks the stages of sleep, sleep duration, wake times, heartrate and snoring (by monitoring ambient sound), sending this data to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The included app can play soothing sounds to help you sleep at night, and can be programmed to wake you up when you’re in your lightest stage of sleep in the morning. This helps make sure you’re refreshed when you get out of bed, not groggy.

The Misfit Beddit is available in your choice of black and white color. The accompanying app is currently Apple iOS only, though Misfit promises Android support is coming soon. You can currently pick one up through Amazon.com for $149.99.

Withings Aura

withings-aura-woman-in-bed-510px
Withings

Like the Misfit Beddit, the Withings Aura includes a small in-bed sensor pad that tracks sleep stages, duration, number of wake ups and more, and can be programmed to wake you up during a cycle of light sleep. But the Aura also includes a bedside device that’s designed to give off a gentle glow of light that helps you wake up and get to sleep by promoting healthy levels of the sleep hormone melatonin. It also measures sound and light pollution in your room so you can see how these factors are impacting your sleep. And because it’s likely to take up a lot of space on your bedside table, the light also doubles as a clock with speakers and a USB port for charging your phone.

These added features don’t come cheap, however. The Withings Aura will set you back $299.95 on Amazon, more than twice the price of the Beddit. The accompanying app is currently only for Apple iOS; an Android version is “coming soon.”

LifeTrak Brite R450

lifetrak-brite-r450-sleep-and-light-tracker-510px
LifeTrak

Between the Fitbit, Misfit Flash, Jawbone UP and Basis, there’s no shortage of wearables out there that can track sleep. But the new LifeTrak Brite R450 stands out in the crowd. It includes the expected sleep tracking features (including smart wake-up based on real-time data) and adds a light sensor. That way, you can know whether your body needs more (or less) natural light to promote sound sleep. You get a ton of exercise monitoring features too, including step counting, calories burned, heart rate and distance. The Brite R450 can even get incoming SMS and call notifications from your phone via a Bluetooth connection.

The LifeTrak Brite is currently available for pre-order for $129.99 through lifetrakusa.com and is expected to ship in two to three weeks. The device is available in your choice of three color schemes including white/orchid, black/freesia (yellow) and black/platinum. The included tracking app is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

ResMed S+

resmed-s-plus-contactless-sleep-sensor-510px
ResMed

The ResMed S+ is a contactless sleep sensor. Rather than slipping under your sheets, it instead measures in-bed movement at your bedside. The S+ also keeps tabs on your breathing, ambient light and noise, and temperature to make recommendations that might improve your sleep (e.g., “sleep on your left side”). Data about sleep cycles, duration and wake-ups are synced to your iOS or Android device by Bluetooth; the included app will then score your sleep on a 0 to 100 scale so you can see how you compare to others. Another cool feature: The ResMed S+ can also play soothing sounds that are synchronized to your breathing to help you get to sleep quicker.

The S+ by ResMed is currently available for sale through the company’s mysplus.com website. It’s currently being sold for “3 monthly payments of $49.95” ($149.85 in total) with a 30-day money back guarantee. The S+ app is compatible with any Apple device running iOS 8 and with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4.

SleepRate

sleeprate-sleep-improvement-program-510px
SleepRate

SleepRate itself isn’t a gadget: It’s billed as a sleep improvement kit. The system requires you to wear a chest-mounted Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor (uncomfortable, but included), as it uses heart-rate data to track sleep stages, duration, wake times and quality. This information is then used to create a custom-tailored four- to eight-week treatment plan licensed from Stanford University to adjust your sleep times, calibrate your biological clock and find the right conditions for the perfect night’s sleep.

The SleepRate Sleep Improvement Kit is currently available on Amazon.com for $99.95. The included app is currently iOS only.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser