Poor sleepers feel older and have more negative perceptions of aging, research suggests

Sleep deprivation in the 50s can lead to more negative perceptions about aging, which can affect physical, mental and cognitive health, new research has revealed.

University of Exeter conducted a study that found that those who rated their sleep as the most deteriorating felt older and had a negative views of their own physical and psychological age.

Serena Sabatini (University of Exeter) stated that as we age, we all experience both negative and positive changes in many aspects of our lives. Certain people experience more negative changes than others. We know that a negative view of aging can negatively impact your future physical as well as mental health. Therefore, it’s vital to understand what causes people to be more negative about aging. People who sleep poorly are more likely to feel older and have a negative view of aging, as per our research. This is something we have to further investigate. One possible explanation is that sleepers who aren’t getting enough sleep have a negative view of aging. It could be an indication that treating sleep problems could improve our perception of aging. This could also bring other health benefits.

The PROTECT study included 4482 participants who were 50 and over. The University of Exeter and the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN at King’s College London) are running PROTECT, an innovative online study that requires participants to fill out questionnaires about their lifestyle and take tests on their cognitive abilities. The research aims to discover how people can stay cognitively healthy into their later years.

The researchers noticed that many PROTECT participants were commenting about their relationship to sleep on traditional questionnaires. Comments included: “How I feel fluctuates widely depending on my sleep. I feel great when my sleep time is 6 hours. This makes me feel half as young and half as old.

Another one was: “I have chronic pain issues and I get very little sleep, which can affect my life quite a bit.”

The team decided to conduct an assessment specifically focusing on sleep in the wake of these comments. In the study, which was published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine Participants were asked if they had suffered from a range of age-related negative changes, such as poorer memory, lower energy levels as well as a greater dependence on help of others, decreased motivation, and having to limit their activities. Participants were also asked to evaluate their sleep quality. The participants took the questionnaires twice, one year apart.

This research is an important part of the growing body of evidence on the crucial role of sleep in healthy ageing. We are now in need of more people to sign up to PROTECT, to help us to better understand this. We’ve got exciting trials ahead on how to optimize sleep for some of the most vulnerable groups, such as those with dementia who live in care homes.”

Professor Clive Ballard, University of Exeter

The paper, titled “Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Assocations Between Subjective Sleep Difficulties & Self-Perceptions of Aging”, was published in Behavioral Sleep medicine. The study is the result of an PhD that was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Cognitive Health.

Journal reference:

Sabatini, S., and. (2021) Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Relationships between Subjective Sleep Difficulties as well as Self- Perceptions of Aging. Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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