How far away is death? Diminishing dream-stage sleep
Ah, “to sleep, perchance to dream.”
Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come.…”
It’s been long established that sleep is critical to sustain daily functioning but there’s a qualifier to that. Harvard Health explains, “Sleep serves numerous roles: recovering energy for the brain, clearing waste products, and forming memories. Prior studies have clearly linked shortened sleep times to heart disease, obesity, reduced cognitive performance, worsened mood, and even a shorter life. There is now new research that suggests that lack of a certain type of sleep (the dream stage of sleep) may be related to an earlier death in middle-aged and older people.”
Sleep changes with age, and not in a good way.
As we age, restorative sleep diminishes: “Total sleep time decreases by 10 minutes every decade until age 60, when it stops decreasing. Time in N3 sleep, the deepest sleep stage, also shortens with age; time in N1 and N2 tends to increase. As a result, people wake more easily from sleep as they age. The percentage of REM sleep also naturally decreases; thus, reduced time spent in REM may be a marker of aging,” says Harvard Health.
Content source/credit: Harvard Health Blog, “Shorter dream-stage sleep may be related to earlier death,” by Lawrence Epstein, MD, Contributor, and Alice Cai, MD, Contributor, September 18, 2020.
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