Does Aging Alter Sleep or Do I Age Because I Don’t Sleep?

posted by on January 27th, 2022

Deterioration of sleep happens much sooner than you would expect; as soon as age 25 according to some studies on longevity, hormone levels and environmental disruptors. Which begs the question: Does aging alter sleep or do I age because I don’t sleep?

Where do we see this decline first? It isn’t with a pesky cold. It’s more insidious, often first noticed as sleepless nights. You may also experience poor recovery after a night where you thought you slept, but it turns out you didn’t sleep well. You did not get into deep or slow-wave sleep for any meaningful amount of time.

Exposure to toxins, blue light and sleep disruptors can dictate your quality of sleep and your susceptibility to disease.

Let’s take an inventory. How often are you dealing with these known immune and sleep disruptors?

  • Antibiotics, oral birth control pills and regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Diets high in refined sugar, simple carbohydrates, processed foods and meats
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers — think of brown rice, lentils, beans, apples and berries for example
  • Dietary toxins like gluten and highly processed and refined oils — think of sunflower, palm or vegetable seed oils, which can disrupt a healthy gut barrier
  • Chronic stress
  • Less than 64 ounces of filtered water daily or regular and/or chronic use of coffee, teas and alcohols

Studies reveal changes in sleep were mirrored by changes in hormone secretion related to your use of medications, lifestyle habits and stress hygiene. “These changes in sleep quality provide an early biological marker of aging,” said Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of one such study.

The foundation of anyone’s healthy aging is good digestive and liver health. Fermentable starches like chicory root, inulin, Jerusalem artichoke or apple pectin are all effective additions to increase the percentage of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) in our diet. SCFA are necessary for healthy energy production throughout the day and have a positive impact on age-related weight gain, especially in those individuals with potential for elevated stress hormones.

If you are having a hard time adding in fermentable foods, consider supplementation with fiber, probiotics or botanicals that can have a positive influence on digestive and liver health.

Regular fitness increases natural secretion of growth hormone. The other way growth hormone rises in a 24-hour cycle is with sleep. Taking effort to add in both regular exercise and a proper sleep regimen are effective in offsetting age-related hormonal decline as well as supporting a healthy stress/cortisol response. This is important because studies find that those who do not follow a healthy sleep and eating regimen, with cyclical timing of both sleep and food, have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of human growth hormone.

It is true that stress can prevent a good night’s sleep. Beyond steps toward being mindful to one’s self and others, some individuals do get benefit from using phytocannabinoids and omega 6 and 3 fatty acids for stress-related sleep concerns.

If sleep is simply hard to come by, or you need a little nudge towards rest, consider the periodic use of melatonin or amino acids like glutamine, tryptophan and tyrosine, in either diet or through supplementation.

Together, a plan that encompasses diet, mindfulness and fitness creates longevity and health — and a better night’s sleep.