Researchers Find Sleep Affects Aging and Longevity

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 10:35
fruit flies

Sacramento State students recently documented in research to be published later this month in a scientific journal about the sleep quality that can help determine how fast we age and how long we live.

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According to the Sacramento State News report, for their research, undergraduate students led by Assistant Chemistry Professor Johannes Bauer studied the longevity of common fruit flies, whose genetic backgrounds and sleep patterns are remarkably similar to those of humans.

The students found that when they forced flies to live in constant light or constant darkness, disrupting their internal clocks or circadian rhythms, the insects had more health issues and shorter lifespans. But when they looked at flies that were selectively bred for sleep length, they got an unexpected result. Those that had been bred to sleep for dramatically shortened periods of time actually lived longer than flies bred to sleep for longer periods.

Bauer said the findings may have occurred because of metabolic changes that were present in the selectively bred flies. The flies bred to sleep less had lowered levels of energy storage molecules, such as fat and sugar, in their bodies. In other species, lower levels of such molecules are linked to decreased aging.

“Sleep length does in fact regulate longevity, but that process is more complex than we thought,” Bauer said.

The subject warrants further study to gain a better understanding how sleep affects health and aging, he said.

Quality and length of sleep have long been linked to human health effects. Studies have shown that sleep loss can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other problems.

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