Dan Buettner is an author and researcher who studies the longevity hotspots of Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. Over the years, he’s collected numerous insights about the health and wellness of longest-living people in the world, including the positive impact of a few nighttime habits to promote longevity.
5 nighttime habits for longevity, inspired by the Blue Zones
1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Sleep training isn’t just for babies. Adults can benefit from a consistent sleep schedule, too. If you want to extend your lifespan, make (and stick) to a regular sleep schedule. Set a bedtime reminder each night to practice falling asleep at a regular time. And if you have trouble falling asleep, try incorporating a “wind-down routine,” like meditation or yoga, which experts say can aid in relaxation.
2. Get a full night’s sleep
In addition to a regular sleep schedule, you need to get enough sleep, ideally 8-10 hours each night, “the optimal amount to revitalize our brains and bodies,” according to Blue Zones.
3. Incorporate time to “down shift”
That wind-down routine? That’s something that centenarians in Blue Zones incorporate in their daily routine as a way to manage stress. These “down shifts,” as Buettner calls them, vary from Blue Zone to Blue Zone: The Ikarians take mid-day naps, while the Sardinians go to Happy Hour, and the Okinawans take a moment to honor their ancestors.
Although these aren’t necessarily always performed at night, stress can impact the amount and quality of sleep we get. Take a note from the residents of Blue Zones and do a daily “down shift” to get a better night’s sleep. Whether it’s taking a walk, reading a book, or having a relaxing cup of tea, set the time aside to settle down and unwind, so you don’t carry the day’s stress to bed.
How to become a morning person:
4. Hold off on late-night snacking
Most residents of the Blue Zones skip out on a midnight snack. “People in Blue Zones don’t eat to excess, which may help them maintain healthy weights,” reads the Blue Zone website. “They also typically eat small dinners early in the evening and refrain from late-night snacking.” Most also take their smallest meals in the evening. “Nicoyans often eat two breakfasts with a light dinner; Ikarians and Sardinians make lunch the big meal of the day.”
In Okinawa, for example, they recite a phrase before every meal: hara hachi bu. “This reminds them to eat to 80 percent full rather than stuffing themselves to the point of bursting,” says Blue Zones. “Their smaller portion sizes remind us to be mindful when eating and pay attention to our bodies.”
5. Enjoy a glass of wine after 5 p.m.
According to Buettner’s research, four of the five official Blue Zone communities drink alcohol in moderation, particularly wine. “There’s plenty of evidence in Blue Zones that a couple glasses a day, especially with friends and with a meal… probably lowers your mortality,” Buettner said at a Global Wellness Summit.