Sleep, our first line of defense for ageing and disease

Here at Edison, we believe improving sleep is key for optimising health and longevity. This informative article looks at how sleep (or the lack of) can dramatically affect preventable disease and ageing.

Here at Edison, we believe improving sleep is key for optimising health and longevity. This is because increasing the length and quality of sleep can improve mood, hormonal health, insulin sensitivity, and energy regardless of body composition changes or increases in fitness.

We often associate wellness with the more obvious health-related activities; diet and exercise. However, recent research in the field of sleep shows that sleep could be the lynchpin upon which all our healthy habits hang.

Longevity, healthcare, and ageing are intimately linked. With better healthcare, we can better treat some of the leading causes of death, impacting how long we live.

The current medical model is increasingly reactionary. It provides assistance with current health concerns without addressing potential future issues or prioritising great health into old age. There is a saying we are “living and dying longer”. It’s the paradox of modernity. Medicine can keep us alive longer, but in what state of health? What is the quality of life if a person is living with fatigue, diabetes or chronic health conditions from the age of 60? Is it the best medical practice for patients to live 20 plus years in suboptimal health?

To unlock long-term health and safeguard against ageing and disease we must look at prevention.

Furthermore, we must look at prevention utilising the information we know about each patient. Honing in on what people need at an individual level allows us to create an optimal environment for long term health and wellbeing without getting sidetracked by universal health trends that may not ever affect each person uniquely.

The best tool we have in our fight for prevention is sleep. Conversely, a lack of quality sleep may also increase your chances for chronic health conditions, depression, and dementia in old age.

In 2013  A University of Michigan team led by Eun Lee found disturbed sleep is associated with depression, regardless of the number of chronic medical conditions a participant has. The study tracked more than 3,500 older adults participating in the nationally representative Americans’ Changing Lives Study, which surveyed participants five times over 25 years.

It is one of the longest and representative studies on long term health associations with sleep.

The research shows that older adults diagnosed with a higher number of chronic medical conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and arthritis have higher levels of depressive symptoms. This is not especially surprising. However,  people who also have poor sleep patterns face a particularly high risk of having depressive symptoms. This is concerning because many chronic health conditions can negatively affect sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.

The researchers concluded that health care professionals need to make detecting sleep problems a priority so early intervention with behavior change can offset these concerns.

Prudently, people with depression tend to use more health care services than average, and given high medical costs, early screening and treatment of disturbed sleep may reduce costs and have “enduring public health benefits.” It’s a win-win.

The link between sleep and Dementia.

In 2017 Canadian researchers found severely disturbed sleep may be an early signal of impending dementia.

The team, led by Amanda Leggett, concluded that otherwise healthy older people may experience disturbed sleep, severe insomnia, and daytime sleepiness, before displaying other dementia-related symptoms, such as memory loss. Disturbed sleep can be an early red flag for dementia for healthcare providers. Conversely, prescribing lifestyle changes to improve sleep can help with prevention.

For the study, the researchers examined the survey responses of more than 28,000 adults aged 50 and older collected through the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement (SHARE) in 12 European countries.

Using data for participants with no pre-existing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia at the beginning of the study, researchers created a sleep disturbance index.

Analysis of the collated data showed each separate sleep measure is independently associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or death within four years. After accounting for overall health - therefore accounting for existing chronic health conditions - high scores on the sleep disturbance index remain associated with a greater risk of developing dementia.

There is really little to be lost by prioritising sleep as a core component of healthcare. At Edison, we use it as the cornerstone of all our client protocols. We believe it really is the key to a long, happy and disease-free life.

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