Do we really need less sleep when we get older?
We know that as people age, they tend to get less sleep. But older people also seem to suffer less when subjected to sleep deprivation, compared to younger adults. This has led some to conclude that older people get less sleep simply because they do not need as much.
However, recent brain studies have revealed that the aging brain changes in ways that makes sleep less restorative. This suggests that the real reason why older adults get less sleep than their younger counterparts is because they are less capable of generating the sleep that they really need.
In this episode of humanOS Radio, I talk with Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in the Matthew Walker Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley. Bryce and colleagues recently wrote a review that explores how sleep changes as we grow older, and the potential long-term implications of these alterations. Perhaps most alarming, research has shown that a lack of deep sleep is associated with higher levels of amyloid beta, which are the toxic misfolded proteins that accumulate in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
This raises a number of interesting questions. If we could test for sleep disruption, could we determine who is susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease soon enough to intervene? And could we find ways to enhance slow wave oscillations as people grow older, so that we can enjoy high-quality restorative sleep our whole lives? Listen here to learn more!