A study led by the University of Exeter in England found that people who rated their sleep the worst felt older and perceived their own physical and mental aging more negatively.
Researchers surveyed 4,482 people 50 and over in an online study in which participants take regular cognitive tests and complete lifestyle questionnaires. The study aims to understand what helps people stay cognitively healthy.
Lead author Serena Sabatini said, “Our research suggests that poor sleepers feel older, and have a more negative perception of their aging. 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 aging, which could have other health benefits.”
The research team noticed that many 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!”
Prompted by such comments, the team offered a questionnaire looking specifically at sleep. 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. The research was published in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine,