The Impact of Sleep on Aging

Every now and again we experience poor sleep; however, on an ongoing basis it can have devastating consequences for preexisting health complications and increase the risk of dementia. Therefore it’s vital that older adults have an established sleep routine so that they receive enough restful slumber.

Many people mistakenly believe their sleep requirements decrease with age; however, your body still requires 7 to 9 hours of restful slumber every night to remain at its optimal functioning. A good night’s rest can also reduce risk of falls by improving balance and flexibility.

Circadian rhythms become increasingly disturbed as we age, leading to fragmented sleep patterns and exacerbating existing health concerns such as arthritis or diabetes. Other issues that could impact sleeping include pain, frequent bathroom trips, medications that make falling asleep harder, stress and more.

Studies suggest that poor sleep may accelerate biological aging, including changes to markers like telomere length, telomerase activity, DNA damage, inflammation and expression of cell cycle inhibitor p16INK4a. These new findings are promising and could pave the way to effective strategies to extend human healthspan.

One way you can support your loved one in getting better restful nights is by encouraging regular exercise – as exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. Also helpful are eliminating distractions in their bedroom and ensuring they sleep in an ideal dark and quiet setting; additionally, avoiding foods and beverages which cause sleep disruption such as caffeine, alcohol, large meals or smoking is another simple way you can assist them.