In your 50s and not sleeping well? It’ll make you feel older — maybe even look it

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:06 a.m. ETBy Alessandra Malito comments

About a third of U.S. adults are sleep deprived

Sleeping well in your 50s may make you feel younger, one study suggests. GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
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Americans in their 50s should get a good night’s sleep — lack of sleep may not only make you feel drowsy through the day, but it could even bring on the feelings of old age. 

Poor sleep was linked to feeling older, mentally and physically, according to a study out of the University of Exeter. People said they would feel younger or older depending on how many hours of sleep they got the night before, or would report ailments if they didn’t sleep well. “I feel great if I get six hours so about half the time I feel younger and half the time I feel older,” one participant commented. 

Americans may be familiar with that feeling, considering about a third of adults in the U.S. are sleep deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The study, led by the University of Exeter and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, surveyed nearly 4,500 people ages 50 and older who are participating in the PROTECT study, which uses regular cognitive tests and lifestyle questionnaires to assess how people can stay cognitively healthier at an older age. 

Participants answered a survey on their sleep twice, one year apart, which included questions about negative changes associated with age, like poor memory and more dependence on others. 

“Our research suggests that poor sleepers feel older, and have a more negative perception of their aging,” said Serena Sabatini, the lead author of the study at the University of Exeter. “It could be a sign that addressing sleep difficulties could promote a better perception of aging, which could have other health benefits.” 

Getting the right number of hours doesn’t only improve individuals’ perception of aging — it provides a long list of other health benefits, such as fighting off obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, according to the CDC. The heart also benefits when a person sleeps well. New research, published in the European Heart Journal — Digital Health, found getting two hours of sleep beginning before midnight could prevent heart disease, especially for women. 
Sleep isn’t the only way to live a healthy lifestyle. Along with sleeping well, experts from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommend eating a healthy diet, regularly exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight (which varies by individual) and abstaining from smoking or excessive drinking.

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