According to a new study, lowering the sleeping age by reducing the number of disorders, improving sleep quality and getting enough sleep per night can help prevent diseases like Parkinson’s and lengthen a person’s life by lowering their “sleeping age.”
A joint research team from Stanford University and the Danish Center for Sleep Medicine found a clear link between a person’s estimated sleeping age and their lifespan.
They used polysomnography tests (PSGs), which measure multiple biometrics to determine sleep quality and diagnose potential sleep problems in people, to determine a person’s sleeping age. Older people generally suffer from more disorders, and a decrease in sleep quality can be an early sign that a person will develop a cognitive impairment such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia in the future.
A clear correlation has been found between poor sleep and an increased all-cause mortality rate. A 10-year change in sleeping age can add or shorten a person’s life by about 8.7 years.
Experts believe that by reducing sleep disturbances, a person can help limit sleep disturbances every night and prolong their lifespan. By avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bed, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and creating a more sleep-friendly environment, a person can limit disruption and potentially lengthen their life.
Experts recommend people avoiding exercise, heavy meals, alcohol, or caffeine right before bed, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and avoiding afternoon naps to avoid sleep fragmentation, which puts them at increased risk of developing cognitive problems later
Researchers, who published their findings in npj Digital Medicine, collected data from 13,332 PSGs for the study.
These tests measure a person’s airflow, nasal pressure, blood oxygen saturation, and other readings while they sleep each night.
A PSG can detect sleep disorders by seeing when these readings reach abnormal levels. It can also detect what stage of sleep a person is in, whether it’s light, deep, or rapid eye movement sleep – often referred to as REM.
Many of these disturbances are imperceptible to the sleeping person. A person could wake up less than a minute before going straight back to bed — and not even remember it happening.
This means that many people who think they are getting a full night of undisturbed sleep may be suffering from a problem they are unaware of.
They used a machine learning system to interpret the PSGs’ data and generated a “sleeping age” for each of the participants.
Sleep fragmentation and other sleep problems can be the earliest signs that a person will eventually face cognitive problems (file photo).
In many cases, the age at onset was, as expected, at or near the actual age of the subject.
However, many people were either 10 years older or younger in sleeping age compared to actual age, suggesting that there were significant differences.
After follow-up, they found that a person with a 10-year difference between actual age and sleeping age will live up to 8.7 years more or less than their peers of the same actual age and with similar health profiles.
“Our key finding was that sleep fragmentation — when people wake up multiple times a night for less than a minute without remembering it — was the strongest predictor of mortality,” Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, a professor of sleep medicine at Stanford who contributed to the study, told Neuroscience News.
“Although we see an association in the data, how it contributes to mortality is unknown. This is different from a person realizing they are waking up, which is what happens with sleep disorders like insomnia.’
However, experts are still not entirely sure why these sleep disorders play such a big role in overall health.
The researchers found that a person’s sleeping age and actual age can differ by a maximum of about a decade and, as a result, can add or shorten a person’s life by about 8.7 years
Insomnia and sleep disorders are considered by experts to be important early indicators that a person will eventually suffer from cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Sometimes it’s the earliest symptom to show up, sometimes years before a person realizes something else is wrong.
Mignot says that calculating a “sleep age” would be too complicated for the average person, but they could use strategies to lower their age and improve their overall sleep quality.
“Going to bed and waking up at regular times is a key to improving your sleep,” he explained.
“That means not oversleeping, but making sure you are fully rested. It’s a different amount for everyone and often the window of opportunity varies slightly – for example, being a night owl or an early riser.
“Adequate exposure—preferably with outside light—during the day, a dark sleeping environment at night, regular exercise but not too close to bedtime, not drinking alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, and avoiding heavy late-night meals all contribute to healthy sleep at .’
Other experts have also advised people not to sleep too late in the afternoon so as not to disrupt their nightly sleep. Heavy meals within two hours of bedtime are also recommended.
Mignot also says that if a person thinks they are having a sleep problem, they should see a doctor because medical interventions — not just behavioral changes — are sometimes necessary for a person to improve their sleep.