We already know that getting enough sleep plays a huge role in health, from maintaining a healthy weight and staving off the common cold, to just plain keeping you sane. Well, new research is showing that getting enough sleep may also slow down the aging process and keep your body younger for longer.
Researchers at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore have found that when older adults sleep less, their brains actually age faster. In a study published this week in the journal SLEEP, 66 older Chinese adults were given MRI scans. The scans showed that those who slept the least were found to have faster brain ventricle enlargement, a marker for diseases associated with aging, such as Alzheimer's. They also showed a steeper decline in cognitive performance on tests.
Chronic sleep deprivation has already been linked to a wide range of health problems, from increased risk of breast cancer to obesity and diabetes, but research has yet to fully probe its role in aging, cognitive decline and dementia. But, the study's lead author Dr. June lo says, “Our findings relate short sleep to a marker of brain aging."
So how much sleep should you be aiming for? “Work done elsewhere suggests that seven hours a day for adults seems to be the sweet spot for optimal performance on computer-based cognitive tests," said senior author Professor Michael Chee, Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke-NUS.
Bottom line: don't let anyone or anything stop you from getting those precious zzzs!