Inadequate sleep, short sleep, or insomnia symptoms may accelerate biological aging, thereby potentially increasing health risks for older adults, according to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine

For the study, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology analyzed data from nearly 3,800 participants aged 56 to 100 years, comparing sleep duration and insomnia with aging at the biological level using an “epigenetic age acceleration clock,” a recent innovation estimating biological age based on measurements of multiple epigenetic sites across an individual’s genome. 

They identified insomnia as the presence of one or more insomnia symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent nighttime awakenings, and waking up too early, coupled with feeling unrested. Short sleepers were defined as those who spend less than six hours per night in bed. 

Individuals with insomnia appeared to experience an acceleration of aging equal to an increase of 0.5 year in GrimAge and a 0.02 faster rate of aging per year (Dunedin PACE). Those who reported short sleep duration showed a potential increase of 1.3 years in GrimAge and an increase in 0.02 faster rate in aging per year. Individuals who exhibited both trouble sleeping and short sleep faced an increase in aging equal to 1 year in GrimAge and a faster pace in aging of 0.03 per year. 

The research indicates that poor sleep patterns may contribute to a faster aging process at the biological level, thereby potentially elevating the likelihood of age-related health conditions and overall longevity. 

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