In the 21st-century, it has almost become a badge of honor to say that you sleep very little. We have come to admire people who party or work throughout the night.
At the same time, we’re obsessed about youthfulness and looking young.
Unfortunately, the two issues do not always go hand in hand, if ever.
A recent study shows that sleepless nights, whether intentional or insomnia-driven, have some terrible health consequences that are far from admirable or honorable. And it happens on cellular level.
In a recent edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry, Prof Judith E. Carroll from the University of California at Los Angeles and a few colleagues published a study proving insomnia could speed up your biological clock, thereby making you develop age-related illnesses earlier – and even die earlier.
They started from the well-established fact that people who suffer from insomnia are at higher risk of age-related diseases (like coronary artery disease) and tend to die earlier.
This made them wonder whether insomniacs actually age faster than good sleepers.
They analyzed information from 2,078 women collected previously by the Women’s Health Initiative study.
For a measure of insomnia, they used restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night, difficulty falling asleep after waking, early awakenings, short sleep (five hours or less), and long sleep (more than eight hours).
Insomniacs will recognize most of these, except for the luxury of long sleep, as a regular part of their existence.
For biological age, they used measures called epigenetic age, naïve T cell (CD8+CD45RA+CCR7+), and late differentiated T cells (CD8+CD28-CD45RA-). Completely incomprehensible, of course, but they are simply measures that academics often use to trace DNA changes that affect which genes are activated. They display your age at cellular level.
They concluded that postmenopausal women with at least five insomnia symptoms were biologically about two years older than women of the same chronological age.
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