As we grow old, our nights are frequently plagued by bouts of wakefulness, bathroom trips and other nuisances as we lose our ability to generate the deep, restorative slumber we enjoyed in youth.
But does that mean older people just need less sleep?
The nuisances that keep us up at night as we age leave us more vulnerable to mental and physical ailments.
Not according to UC Berkeley researchers, who argue in an article published April 5 in the journal Neuron that the unmet sleep needs of the elderly elevate their risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” said the article’s senior author, Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience. “We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”
Unlike more cosmetic markers of aging, such as wrinkles and gray hair, sleep deterioration has been linked to such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke, he said.
Though older people are less likely than younger cohorts to notice and/or report mental fogginess and other symptoms of sleep deprivation, numerous brain studies reveal how poor sleep leaves them cognitively worse off.
Read more at UC Berkeley