New Research Shows a Surprising Connection Between Your Personality and How Long You Live

How we work, live, and sleep plays a vital role in longevity.

Rawpixel/ Shutterstock
Rawpixel/ Shutterstock

How we work and live plays a vital role in how long we live, and in a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, researchers have identified a consistent mechanism underlying this character-mortality connection: sleep.

Using a library of data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States and other records, the scientists looked at the sleep habits of almost 4,000 participants, and saw patterns in their personality traits directly correlated to both their life span and their sleep. (People with extroverted personalities, for example, were found to sleep less — perhaps because they have more alert tendencies during the day, and thus procrastinate longer before winding down at night.)

According to the C.D.C., one in every three Americans does not get enough sleep, and 35 percent of adults are getting less than the recommended seven hours per night. And while the body of research surrounding the epidemic is growing, individuals are still struggling to get enough sleep. “Sleep has been associated with both personality and longevity,” the research team told Research Digest, “Yet [before now] no study has investigated whether sleep is a pathway linking personality to objective health outcomes.”

While we of course can’t change our personalities overnight, the research provides even further evidence that sleep should be a priority, regardless of whether you’re extroverted or introverted. Either way, through small, actionable Microsteps, you can form habits that have lasting effects on your well-being. Here are three ways to get started:

Keep your bedroom tech-free at night

Pick a consistent time each night to escort your phone out of your bedroom — and instead, try winding down with a good read, or a meaningful conversation with your partner. Studies show that the blue light emitted from our devices can suppress the melatonin our bodies need to fall into a restful sleep, so it’s important to separate yourself from the digital world that causes restlessness before bed.

Find a ritual that helps you relax

Adopting a consistent nighttime ritual can help you separate from the stressors of your day, and remind your brain that it’s time to unwind. Bill Gates and Alex Rodriguez swear by a few minutes of journaling before bed, while Gisele Bundchen relaxes her mind with a 20-minute meditation. Whatever works for you, embrace it, and let it serve as a reminder that the day is coming to an end.

Set a bedtime (and stick to it!)

Having a nightly bedtime is not just for kids. Setting a consistent time to go to sleep each night can give you a concrete structure to your evening routine. If you have trouble sticking to it, set an alarm on your phone as a reminder. When you think of sleep as an actual appointment, you’re more likely to grant it the time it deserves.

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