Anti-Aging Secret of Sleep? By Al Sears, MD
You may have heard that while you sleep, your body restores the mental and physical energy you used up during the day. That during sleep, your body rebuilds and replenishes critical factors like muscle tissues and hormones.
But if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not just running down your body. You’re running down your telomeres.
Longer telomeres – the “caps” on the end of chromosomes – keep your cells acting younger.
Without sleep, telomeres shorten, brain function declines and the brain ages faster. This is true for the rest of your body too.
Researchers at Stanford and the University of California followed a group of older women for a year. Stress shortens telomeres because telomeres are very sensitive to the oxidation that happens from inflammation due to stress.
Women who got enough sleep weren’t as affected by stress. Their telomeres were longer than women who didn’t get adequate sleep.1
University of Utah scientists got similar results. They discovered older adults who slept well had telomeres that were equivalent in length to much younger women.2
The “magic number” was 7 hours of sleep a night.
Clearly, a good night’s sleep can do a lot to protect you from the effects of aging. So here are a few tips for getting the rest you need…
- Shut off your TV or computer at least an hour before going to bed. Televisions, computers, and most other electronic devices give off a lot of blue light. Blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, which is key to falling asleep.
- Exercise early in the day. Late afternoon or evening exercise makes you more alert and can interfere with sleep.
- Use your bedroom for sleep. Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy. Train your body to connect your bed with sleep.
- Keep your bedroom as quiet and dark as possible. If you sleep with the TV or the light on, you are interfering with your brain’s natural sleep cycle and production of sleep hormones like melatonin. Turn it all off and sleep in total darkness. Even blocking the light from under a door or covering the blue glow from an electronic device could stop you from waking up.
- Set regular hours for bedtime and getting up. Keeping a regular schedule will help you sleep better.
- Watch the temperature. A cool bedroom promotes better sleep. Keep the room cool… use blankets for warmth.
- Increase your thiamine intake. You might know it better as vitamin B1. It’s well known for supporting healthy circulation in the brain. But studies show thiamine improves sleep patterns when you have enough. The best food sources are organ meats, yeast, peas, pork, beans, and sunflower seeds. To regulate sleep, I recommend 40mg a day.
- Use your body’s natural sleep nutrient, melatonin. .5 to 3 mg of melatonin before bedtime can help you get a good night’s rest. And the best past is that melatonin also helps elongate telomeres.3
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Puterman E, et. al. “Determinants of telomere attrition over 1 year in healthy older women: stress and health behaviors matter,” Mol Psychiatry. 2014.
2. Cribbet M, et. al. “Cellular aging and restorative processes: subjective sleep quality and duration moderate the association between age and telomere length in a sample of middle-aged and older adults,” Sleep. 2014; 37(1): 65-70. 3. Rastmanesh R. “Potential of melatonin to treat or prevent age-related macular degeneration through stimulation of telomerase activity.” Med Hypotheses. 2011;76(1):79-85.