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Does Sleep Apnea Accelerate Aging?

Sep 30, 2020
· 4 mins read

Sleep. Everybody needs it. Most don't get enough of it.

The restorative power of a good night's sleep for thinking, memory, and functioning at our best is undeniable. We've all experienced the consequences of sleep deprivation at some point or another: poor focus, irritability, low energy levels, and being more prone to getting sick; this is because sleep affects our overall health, including our hormones and immune system. 

What is Good Sleep?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults should optimally receive between seven and nine consecutive hours of sleep each night, but those needs vary from person to person. Some people feel best with eight hours of sleep, while others do well with less at night and include daytime napping.

Good sleep is just as important as eating healthy and exercising. It is one of our basic daily needs and critical for proper functioning during waking hours. 


 Woman with lack of sleep.

How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Your Health?

The signs of poor sleep are visible; antibodies aren't the only things the body produces at night – it also produces collagen, which makes your skin firmer.

People who don't get enough good quality sleep may experience visible signs:

  • Pale appearance
  • Acne
  • Puffiness and dark circles around their eyes
  • Feeling insatiably hungry because a lack of sleep slows metabolism
  • Weight Gain/Obesity

There's a reason it's called beauty sleep. 

Lack of sleep can have significant health effects, both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, you may feel irritable, tired, and unable to concentrate or function properly; however, insufficient sleep can be much worse in the long-term. It can accelerate the aging process from exacerbating chronic conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders such as dementia. 

If you're not already prioritizing sleep, now's the time. 


 Sleep Apnea Disorder

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Accelerated Aging

Aging is a process that elicits mixed emotions. Some signs appear slowly, while others can demand attention.

Aging well means prioritizing sleep. A consistent sleep routine can increase your brain functioning, mood, and alertness during the day. But, if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), one of the most common sleep disorders characterized by respiration abnormalities during sleep, your sleep patterns can be affected even if you prioritize sleep. 

Sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, awakening with a dry mouth, episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep, gasping for air during the night, morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, and difficulty focusing. 

Obstructive sleep apnea may produce epigenetic age acceleration which affects your biological age, and undiagnosed cases and the low level of awareness of this condition can worsen other age-related disorders. If you suspect you might have sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) or obstructive sleep apnea, consider talking to your health care provider for an evaluation, perform a sleep study to assess your breathing patterns, and assess your condition. 

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, receiving proper treatment, and having adequate CPAP equipment that adapts to your lifestyle and therapy needs is crucial for your treatment plan's success. Most people with obstructive sleep apnea improve their sleep and feel better if they follow their provider's treatment plan.

Untreated sleep apnea puts people at risk for cardiovascular disease, headaches, memory loss, epigenetic changes, and even depression. Continuous sleep disruption due to sleep apnea is a severe disorder but can easily be treated with modifiable lifestyle factors and adequate CPAP therapy.

People who suffer from sleep apnea must take a step further when it comes to taking care of their sleeping habits. Several studies have shown that sleep apnea potentially contributes to functional decline, mainly prompted by chronic intermittent hypoxia, an inadequate amount of oxygen levels in the tissues, and sleep fragmentation, a short repetitive interruption of sleep. 

It's proposed that these symptoms can anticipate and aggravate aging by inducing cellular and molecular impairments that characterize the aging process such as skin repair capacity and reduced leukocyte count, suggesting accelerated cellular aging and a higher risk for age-related diseases. 

CPAP Therapy and Accelerated Aging

The aging process and obstructive sleep apnea disorder have been a subject of study because getting enough good-quality sleep is essential to staying healthy and aging well. Sleep apnea can deepen several cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Yet, by treating obstructive sleep apnea progression, quality of life can improve, and there is a lower risk for 

Numerous studies are emerging around the link between sleep apnea and accelerated aging, and have shown an association. On the bright side, we hold the power to reverse certain age-accelerating conditions and improve our health and longevity.

Early detection and CPAP treatment of sleep apnea, accompanied by lifestyle changes and environmental factors, can help reduce susceptibility to health complications and benefit our overall wellbeing and aging process. 

Are you having trouble sleeping? Be kind to your current and future self, and follow these helpful tips to enhance your bedtime routine and improve your sleep.

7 Ways for Improving Sleep

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (even on weekends), so you get at least 7 hours of sleep and establish a healthy circadian rhythm
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable, and the room is sufficiently dark and quiet. Some handy items you may use are eye masks to block light or earplugs
  • Set the mood for your sleep environment, find an adequate temperature that's pleasing for you. A cool room with warm blankets is optimal for a good night's sleep
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping (and intimacy), avoid eating in bed or spending too much time on your phone before bedtime, the blue light emitted by your cell phone screen restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm
  • Avoid stimulants (coffee, sweetened beverages, chocolate, and cigarettes) for four to six hours before going to bed
  • Limit alcohol intake before going to bed as it interferes with sleep patterns
  • Enjoy a hot bath before bedtime, or engage in mindfulness practices such as stretching or meditating in preparation for sleep

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