Lack of sleep can lead to early aging

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 16.10.2021

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Women who, with the advent of a child, are forced to sleep less than 7 hours a day, risk aging prematurely.

Scientists from the University of Los Angeles studied changes in the DNA of women during pregnancy and during the first year of a baby's life. More than thirty participants in the 23-45 age group were studied. Experts paid attention to the terminal chromosomal parts called telomeres. Their length is indicative for determining the biological age of a person: in older cells, telomeres are relatively short.

The main purpose of telomeres is to ensure the process of cell division without damaging the genome. When these parts are shortened to the minimum possible length, the cell loses its ability to divide and dies. There is also a special enzyme substance, telomerase, that can lengthen telomeres. However, this enzyme functions only in stem and some malignant structures. If telomeres are found to be noticeably shortened in some cells, this means that the cellular resource is being consumed too actively.

It is also necessary to know that structures with shortened telomeres may not die: their further existence is associated with the development of chronic diseases, including oncopathologies.

In addition to telomeres, scientists have investigated other "sensors" of biological age - in particular, the epigenetic modifications of women. Changes in epigenetics can occur as a result of a variety of events, including stressful situations, food restrictions, etc. Later, these changes affect the gene activity and the general state of cells. It turns out that over the years, specific marks appear on DNA that do not allow genes to work at full strength. These marks can also be used to estimate biological age.

Scientists have noticed that in many young mothers both the first and second indicators of bio-age "ran" ahead, and the reason for this was lack of sleep. Small children require a lot of attention, and very rarely a woman allows herself to get a good night's sleep. According to the observations of specialists, those mothers whose sleep lasted less than 7 hours a day for 10-12 months in a row had a biological age 3-7 years higher than that of sleeping mothers of the same age category.

Sleep deficiency negatively affects circadian rhythms, and with them metabolic processes, and immunity, and brain function. In the future, scientists intend to investigate other changes in the bodies of young mothers. We are talking about possible physiological disorders, metabolic disorders, immune failures. Given that the body experiences severe stress from lack of sleep, its possible long-term consequences should be studied.

The information is described in the publication of Sleep Health

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