People who are over 50 and are going through poor sleep can also suffer from the negative observations of ageing that can affect their physical, mental and cognitive health, finds new research. The study has been published in the ‘Behavioral Sleep Medicine Journal’.
The research led by the University of Exeter found that people who rated their sleep the worst also felt older, and perceived their own physical and mental ageing more negatively.
Lead author Serena Sabatini, of the University of Exeter, said, “As we age, we all experience both positive and negative changes in many areas of our lives. However, some people perceive more negative changes than others. As we know that having a negative perception of ageing can be detrimental to future physical health, mental health, and cognitive health, an open question in ageing research is to understand what makes people more negative about ageing. Our research suggests that poor sleepers feel older, and have a more negative perception of their ageing. We need to study this further – one explanation could be that a more negative outlook influences both. However, it could be a sign that addressing sleep difficulties could promote a better perception of ageing, which could have other health benefits.”
Around 4,482 people aged 50 were surveyed by the researchers and over who are part of the PROTECT study. Run by the University of Exeter and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre, PROTECT is an innovative online study in which participants took regular perceptive tests and completed lifestyle questionnaires. To understand what helps people stay
Mentally healthy in life later is the main focus of the study.
The team of researchers noticed that many PROTECT participants were commenting on their relationship with sleep as part of standard questionnaires within the study.
Comments included, “How I feel fluctuates widely depending on my sleep. I feel great if I get six hours so about half the time, I feel younger and half the time I feel older!” Another comment read, “I have chronic pain problems and get very little sleep which impacts my life quite a lot.”
As a result of such comments, the team decided to conduct a questionnaire looking specifically at sleep. In the research, participants were asked whether they had experienced a list of negative age-related changes, such as poorer memory, less energy, increased dependence on the help of others, decreased motivation, and having to limit their activities.
They also rated their quality of sleep. The participants completed both questionnaires twice, one year apart. Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter, said, “This research is an important part of the growing body of evidence about the crucial role of sleep in healthy ageing. We now need more people to sign up to PROTECT, to help us understand this further. We’ve got some exciting trials ahead on how to optimise sleep in some particularly vulnerable groups, such as people with dementia in care homes.”