A breathing problem at night can do more than just disrupt sleep. According to a new study, it can also accelerate your aging.
At night, abnormal breathing patterns such as obstructive sleep apnea can cause snoring, reduce blood oxygen levels and wake you up. Harvard University researchers say all of this can cause a person’s biological age to differ from their chronological age.
The scientists studied about 600 people, tracking their sleep patterns at home. Using two common measures of sleep disruption and sleep-disordered breathing, they found that those with poor nighttime breathing had between 215 and 321 days of age acceleration.
How is that possible? People’s biological age can exceed what the calendar tells them about age — a condition known as “fast aging.” Researchers say disrupted sleep can be one reason for fast aging. The findings were published recently in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine journal.
The link between poor breathing and sleep disruption was more pronounced in women, suggesting they are more vulnerable. Having sleep apnea also raises the risk of other medical problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and weight gain. While the physical effects of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are well-known, this new research sheds light on how it also ages the body.
The good news is that sleep-disordered breathing is treatable. The “fast aging” changes brought on by sleep-related breathing troubles may also be reversible as the condition is treated. Getting it treated might also keep you from aging more quickly as you sleep.