Experts say that as we age, the ability of our brain to carry out sleep-related duties diminishes over time. We tend to experience regular changes in our sleep patterns like waking up earlier than usual, not going in for a deep sleep or even becoming sleepy earlier than our normal sleep-time.
However, these changes are considered quite normal; ones that can happen to any individual. However, if you are in your 40s and are experiencing constant sleeping issues like disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, or are unable to sleep through the night, it is certainly not normal.
Constant issues like these require immediate action from your end and you should consult your doctor instead of waving the problem off. Your doctor will be able to help you determine not only the causes and severity of your sleep problem but will also suggest you ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
Insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome
If you face difficulty staying asleep, falling asleep or tend to wake up earlier than you’d like to with no trace of sleep, you are likely to be experiencing insomnia which is one of the most common sleep disorders. Some people may experience periods of acute or short-term insomnia which could be a result of environmental changes. These sleep-related changes are most likely to be temporary.
However, in other cases, these disruptions in sleep tend to persist for long periods and may develop into chronic insomnia. This is an extreme type of insomnia and it can trigger the onset of several other health conditions which is why you should consult your doctor to get it treated.
Other types of sleep disorders include sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Sleep apnea is characterized by breathing issues that occur during sleep as a result of which, the quality of your everyday sleep is likely to be low and poor. It is also linked to numerous health conditions like coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke, which means it requires immediate medical attention.
Restless legs syndrome, on the other hand, involves a strong urge to constantly move one’s legs. People with this syndrome often experience a constant unpleasant and irresistible feeling in their legs. This usually occurs in times when a person is resting or trying to sleep.
These three sleep disorders, on their own and together can further lead to several other mental and physical health conditions, especially in adults.
Sleep and depression
One of the most common signs of depression is the inability to fall asleep and staying asleep for longer periods. Having a sleep disorder may not in itself lead to depression but a lack of proper and quality sleep can definitely trigger depression.
According to historically-held beliefs, insomnia and other sleep disorders are secondary to disorders like depression. The underlying idea here is that depression further leads to sleep-related issues which might involve difficulty falling asleep, being awake for long and waking up before the prescribed time.
However, recent research is considering the possibilities of it being the other way around; poor and low-quality sleep leading to depression. A study conducted on the subject focused on the area of the brain called amygdala which is known to play an important role in our anxiety levels and emotions. The results from the study showed that subjects who had been sleep deprived for about 35 hours showed an increased amygdala response. These findings suggest that sleep issues could actually cause mental health conditions like depression.
Sleep and Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe that a single night of interrupted sleep can lead to an increase in those proteins in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s, a common form of dementia. Several studies have linked poor sleep with an earlier onset of mental health conditions like Alzheimer’s and even mixed dementia. This is because disturbances in everyday sleep can significantly increase the level of amyloid in the brain which can clog the brain and trigger Alzheimer’s-related symptoms.
It is also believed that continued disruptions in sleep can lead to an unhealthy buildup of plaque in the brain which can kill neurons and brain cells and eventually cause significant memory loss.
Studies conducted over time have also shown that constant sleep issues also increase the risk of cognitive impairments in the brain. People who experience sleep problems like sleep apnea have been found to be at a greater risk of developing cognitive problems way earlier than people without the sleep disorder. These mild cognitive impairments can further lead to mental conditions characterized by deficits in a person’s cognition.
Sleep and obesity
Among numerous other things, disturbances and disruptions in sleep have also been found to lead to obesity and weight gain. There is a great association between decreased sleep duration and quality and increase in body weight. Numerous sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea have increased the risk of several chronic health conditions with obesity being one of them.
A review conducted on studies focusing on adults shows evidence that fewer hours of good quality sleep can significantly lead to obesity. It also shows that the prevalence of obesity worldwide has doubled over the years which was found to be parallel to a trend of reduced sleep duration and other sleep issues.
A constant loss of sleep also leads to alterations in our metabolism and endocrine system which includes decreased glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and increased levels of hunger and appetite.
A good quality sleep is extremely important for healthy survival and a well-functioning body. Disruptions and interruptions in your sleep can significantly mess with your mental and physical health. As mentioned above, sleep issues can also lead to the onset of several disorders and illnesses.
Especially when you are nearing your 40s and 50s, your brain faces a gradual decline in its abilities to function properly. This is why, you should take your sleep issues very seriously and consult your doctor who can help you deal with them and prescribe the required treatment.