Falling into a deep slumber requires slow brain waves and fast ones called sleep spindles, both of which become less readily available with age. On top of that, the neurochemicals that help us doze off and wake up aren’t there when we need them, leading to daytime drowsiness and nighttime tossing and turning.
This decline starts as young as our 30s, and the resulting sleep deprivation can leave us more prone to memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, heart disease, and other physical and psychological problems, the researchers write.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” said senior author Dr Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience, in a press release.
The upside? Getting more and higher-quality sleep could halt the effects of ageing. Some studies show that treating sleep problems with non-pharmacological therapies like transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) slows physical and cognitive decline.
If you want to reduce the damage of poor sleep as you age, the researchers warn against relying on sleeping pills, since they don’t provide the benefits of natural sleep. Spending more time under the covers may not help either – it’s more about how well you sleep.
A few proven strategies to deepen your sleep are visualising relaxing scenes, loading up on Vitamin D, and resisting the urge to nap. If you’re not sure how well you’ve been sleeping, a sleep monitor can enlighten you.
This article was originally published on MensHealth.com