Sleeplessness Makes You Feel Up To Ten Years Older

Summary: Researchers unveiled a link between sleep quality and subjective age, demonstrating that insufficient sleep can make individuals feel significantly older. Through two studies involving over 600 participants, they found that each night of inadequate sleep contributed to feeling 0.23 years older, with sleep restriction causing participants to feel on average 4.4 years older.

This research highlights the profound impact of sleep on subjective age, suggesting that feeling alert can make one feel four years younger, whereas feeling extremely sleepy can age one’s perceived age by six years. The findings underscore the importance of quality sleep for maintaining a youthful sense of self and promoting health and activity.

Key Facts:

  1. Direct Link Between Sleep and Feeling Older: Each night of poor sleep equates to feeling nearly a quarter of a year older.
  2. Experimental Sleep Restriction Study: Restricting sleep to four hours for two nights led participants to feel 4.4 years older compared to sufficient sleep periods.
  3. Subjective Age and Health: Feeling younger than one’s actual age is tied to healthier, longer lives, with sleep quality now identified as a key factor in maintaining a youthful perception.

Source: Stockholm University

Do you ever find yourself longing for the energy and vitality of your younger years? Feeling young is not just a matter of perception – it is actually related to objective health outcomes.

Previous studies have shown that feeling younger than one’s actual age is associated with longer, healthier lives. There is even support for subjective age to predict actual brain age, with those feeling younger having younger brains.

This shows a young woman laying awake.
After sleep restriction, participants felt on average 4.4 years older compared to when having enjoyed sufficient sleep. Credit: Neuroscience News

“Given that sleep is essential for brain function and overall well-being, we decided to test whether sleep holds any secrets to preserving a youthful sense of age,” says Leonie Balter, researcher at the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.

In the first study, 429 individuals aged 18 to 70 were asked how old they felt, how many days in the past month they had not gotten enough sleep, and how sleepy they were. It turned out that for each night with insufficient sleep in the past month, participants felt on average 0.23 years older.

In a second study, the researchers tested whether it was indeed the lack of sleep causing participants to feel older. Therefore, they conducted an experimental sleep restriction study involving 186 participants aged 18 to 46. Participants restricted their sleep for two nights –only four hours in bed each night – and another time slept sufficiently for two nights, with nine hours in bed each night.

After sleep restriction, participants felt on average 4.4 years older compared to when having enjoyed sufficient sleep. The effects of sleep on subjective age appeared to be related to how sleepy they felt. Feeling extremely alert was related to feeling 4 years younger than one’s actual age, while extreme sleepiness was related to feeling 6 years older than one’s actual age.

“This means that going from feeling alert to sleepy added a striking 10 years to how old one felt,” says Leonie Balter, and states that the implications for our daily lives are clear:

“Safeguarding our sleep is crucial for maintaining a youthful feeling. This, in turn, may promote a more active lifestyle and encourage behaviours that promote health, as both feeling young and alert are important for our motivation to be active.”

About this sleep and aging research news

Author: Gunilla Nordin
Source: Stockholm University
Contact: Gunilla Nordin – Stockholm University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Sleep and subjective age: Protect your sleep if you want to feel young” by Leonie Balter et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences


Sleep and subjective age: Protect your sleep if you want to feel young

The current studies examined the impact of insufficient sleep and sleepiness on the subjective experience of age.

Study 1, a cross-sectional study of 429 participants (282 females (66%), 144 males, 3 other gender; age range 18–70), showed that for each additional day of insufficient sleep in the last 30 days, subjective age increased by 0.23 years.

Study 2, an experimental crossover sleep restriction study (n = 186; 102 females (55%), 84 males; age range 18–46), showed that two nights of sleep restriction (4 h in bed per night) made people feel 4.44 years older compared to sleep saturation (9 h in bed per night).

Additionally, moving from feeling extremely alert (Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS) score of 1) to feeling extremely sleepy (KSS score of 9) was associated with feeling 10 years older in both studies.

These findings provide compelling support for insufficient sleep and sleepiness to exert a substantial influence on how old we feel, and that safeguarding sleep is probably a key factor in feeling young.

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