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April 20th, 2009
02:30 PM ET

Sex + Sleep = Long, healthy life?

Program Note: Tune in tonight for more on Ikaria and to hear more clues for a longer life on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

The island of Ikaria, Greece, where residents may have some secrets to living longer, healthier lives.
The island of Ikaria, Greece, where residents may have some secrets to living longer, healthier lives.

Erica Hill
AC360° Anchor/Correspondent

Forget counting calories, crunches and laps around the track. What if the secrets to a long life involved a lot less work and a much more enjoyment? Turns out, sex and sleep could be just as important to a long, healthy life as omega-3s and cardio. I know, you’re thinking, “This is too good to be true!” Followed by, “I can barely find time for the little sleep I get right now.” Stick with me – I promise it’s worth it.

All this week, we’ll help you find ways to make these simple secrets to a long life work for you. An active sex life and plenty of rest are just two reasons scientists think people on the remote Greek island of Ikaria are living longer, healthier lives. Of course, I’m guessing living on a Greek island doesn’t exactly lead to depression, but for those of us who can’t pack up and move to a Mediterranean paradise, we can reap the benefits of Ikarian culture at home.

Clearly, more time in bed is part of the equation, but it’s far from the only piece of this puzzle. People often live well into their 90’s and – perhaps most importantly - they have fewer years of disease and poor health. If you think about your friends and loved ones, many who have died in their “old age” probably weren’t in great shape those last few years. Maybe it was cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s… the list of potential health problems is endless and almost expected in the US. Rarely do we hear about people living nearly disease-free until their final days. Yet, on this 99-square mile island, people require far less medical care and tend to have more “good years”. If you’re thinking Ikarians simply hit the good gene jackpot, it’s a nice try but not that simple. Only about 20 percent of our longevity is determined by genes; the rest is up to us.

Dan Buettner, the best-selling author of "THE BLUE ZONES: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest" just named Ikaria the world’s fifth “Blue Zone.” He’s there right now to get some firm answers for us about what makes Ikarians so special, and to share those tips with us. Do sex and sleep play a big role? I’ll ask Dan tonight. In the meantime, you could always do a little research of your own – naptime, anyone?

Cast your vote here to determine where Dan and his team go next in their quest for longevity.

And are you curious about how long you’ll live? Check out Dan’s vitality compass and find out what your biological age is, how old you’ll be when disease is likely to kick in and how long you’ll most likely be on this planet.

For more information on the Blue Zones Quest, go to: http://www.aarp.org/bluezones.

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. jim

    i would like to e mail this to some people . not set up to do that so i guess they will never know about all this .

    April 21, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  2. mercedes

    Life in the good USA us full of stress, get up, go to work, go home, get up, go to work, go home, make more money, pay lots of bills where do you fit in sleep and sex? That is why people in European countries such as this live longer....

    April 21, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  3. Darla

    Sounds delightful. Don't forget we Americans live a hectic life. You don't notice just how hectic and busy we are until we stop and look around. Life is happening all around us, we don't need to live on an island to slow down. People need to take a few steps back, look at their life; think, what can I do to slow down? I really beleive our nervous lifestyles and absurd priorities (keeping up with the Jones); the junk we eat (approved by our favorite FDA) makes us rundown, which lowers our resistance, in turn making us susceptible to infections, sicknesses and ultimately an early demise. Expensive healthcare leads to people forgoing preventive medicine, so diseases are going unchecked until symptoms present themselves. We live in a messed up world and most of us are too busy to see what damage we are doing to ourselves and our children.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  4. Diane Leon

    Hi Erica, I love this series. At a time when we hear so much bad news this is something we can strive for. I agree about the sex, and sleep.
    I maintain my own version of a blue zone in Spain on the Mediterranean. Each year I spend a month focusing on my art work, good times with my husband and friends. Unlike many Americans I have always worked full time, painted and gave myself a long vacation. The siesta in Spain is similar to the Greek Island folks. I take mine on the beach under my umbrella. I think having a purpose in life and something positive to look forward to also helps keeping you young. During the week working in NYC and living in Queens my schedule give me about 7 hours of sleep a night, but on the weekend I sleep a full 8 hours. I drink a glass of red wine every night with dinner, have a vegetable and always some dark chocolate for dessert. I look forward to seeing the rest of the series. Diane, Elmhurst, Queens, NY

    April 21, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  5. Jessica

    If all we had to worrie about was food, clothing and shelter we would have more time for sex and sleep.
    Right now pregnant mothers have to work till they give birth and are forced back to work with in months.
    Being the bread basket and the bank of the world makes us slaves to the grind.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  6. Paul H. Dimitriou

    If you live on an Island,such as Ikaros,you can live off the land e.g. Fishing,Hunting,doing odd jobs ect..... I am of Greek Decent and can truly attest to this,my forefathers had a longer life span and I dont believe its attributed solely upon genetics. Less stress, a mediteranian diet, and in my opinion being in love and making love is the proper recipe towards a fruitful and long life.I have also discovered that as an American living in the United states,we are truly undernourished,meaning: we feed our minds with knowledge and yet we truly know nothing,we feed our bodies with so called food and yet we starve, we claim to know God and we lack faith and some of us think we are living gods.Wake up America, and lets go back to the basics its not too late!!!!!!

    April 21, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  7. Gary

    Good read, I liked Dan's Virtual Compass. It was a little strange to see what my potential life expectancy is but at least you can see what to change and can be better.

    Maybe a good follow up piece would be to take the standard outputs of the evaluation and get one of the doctors talk about what you can do everyday to improve things like Anger, Exercise and Eats. These are the items I did not do well with.

    April 21, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  8. Allen

    hhmm it's the best news i ever had for 2009....it's going to be one of my 2010 New Years resolutiopn..to get to that place sleep and have a whole lot of sex!!

    April 21, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  9. Bill

    I find it not the least bit coincidental that these "Blue Zones" are mostly remote places – like small islands – on which the population has mainly stayed put over decades and engaged mostly in mating with others from their tiny locale.

    Does this not beg the question whether the people who live in these places are the beneficiaries of GOOD GENES? Are these not the human equivalent of Darwin's finches in the sense that through isolation and interbreeding, we can see a physiological difference between them and the rest of humanity: i.e. they live longer on the whole.

    The thesis of this article is that everyday people may be able to live longer by living the lives of those in these "Blue Zones," but is that really true? I bet not.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  10. David from Phoenix, AZ

    Sex + Sleep = Long, healthy life?

    Sounds like a simple formula for a better life. Kinda E = M*C*C (Einstein equation).

    Right now my life formula is (-cash flow) / (-work hours) + large mortgage* less savings. This results in less sleep and less sex time.

    Hmm... let me shuffle the variables and the equation to maximize sleep and sex.

    Thanks Erica.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  11. Susan

    According to the longevity calculator, I'll live to be 95.8 years old. Good grief! I don't want to live that long. I guess I'll have to make some negative changes.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  12. MarieAnne Sam - Alabang, Philippines

    Hmmnnn...pretty interesting!!! Sleep, I can do it-actually my favorite activity! Sex -- its my dilemma. I have no partner :-( !

    This Ikeria place is quite amazing-just reading about it makes me wish I will live a hundred! :-)

    April 21, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  13. nature lover

    well lilibeth my favorite past time is to have sex while eating my lunch! & then taking a nap. wouldn't mind moving to the island though – slowing down and balance ...

    April 21, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  14. KEVIN MARTIN

    I really enjoyed the show last night. Kinda describes my lifestyle. However you mentioned that there is a calculator here on the site. Well, at the rate I'm going I'll be 90 before I find it.LOL so please, tell all! where is it at? Also during the stay on the island will all the findings be posted here as well as the AARP & National Geo sites? Really good stuff you got here AC360...Keep up the good work, and keep us informed...

    Kevin
    Panama City Beach, Florida

    April 21, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  15. Shovlins

    Amazing story -

    Interesting my wife and I enjoy each other sexually but sleep is a problem for us both. With the economy being so poor, the pressures at work - doing more with less...and I just lost my job and we have three mortgages it is difficult to sleep and not worry about all the things that require payment.

    Will continue to watch.
    The Shovlin's

    April 21, 2009 at 9:14 am |
  16. Lilibeth

    Hi Erica, I heard about the blue zones in Oprah's show. I love to sleep; I think it's my favorite pastime...LOL. During lunchtime at work, I'd rather take a nap than eat. Your report should be interesting. See you later,

    Lilibeth
    Edmonds, Washington

    April 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  17. Hesca Joubert

    Sleeping and having sex is certainly two of the most enjoyable things people can do. Yet, after reading this I was just wondering why it so hard to make time for these two activities that we derive so much pleasure from? Why is it that the people of Ikaria can do it? Maybe because they are more 'sheltered' from the world with its terrible onslaughts on our precious time or maybe as a society that have kept from developing in a direction that would lead them to become 'slaves' of the world and the tasks it forces on us, depriving us from our pleasures.

    Would it be so easy for the rest of us to make sex and sleep a priority?

    April 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  18. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    So you are saying that sex + sleep = a long and healthier life? Well, no job + no money = no sex and little sleep.

    April 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Nicole

    Amazingly informative. Well structured, factual, creative, and humorous. I'm learning plenty. Thank you.

    April 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  20. Donna O'brien

    love your show , hmm sex and sleep i will try that see if i live to 89 like my grandfather.

    April 20, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  21. deborah

    Sex is one of the best ways to detox too.

    April 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  22. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    Hi Erica, nice to see a blog from you. Very interesting, this little paradise. Oh, to live on a beautiful sunny island and just sleep and love someone special forever! Don't I wish! I look forward to hearing more about it this week.

    April 20, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  23. Tianna

    Well hell if it were that easy....First though you have to find someone to have sex with! (On a permanent basis of course.

    April 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm |