New research in the US found that children who sleep less will age faster on a cellular level – a process that can have a negative effect on health in later life.
Previous small studies in adults have suggested that sleep may be associated with telomere shortening – “cap” protective chromosome.
Telomeres naturally become shorter with age, every time our cells divide. However, certain lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise, appear to accelerate this process.
When telomeres are too short, it is believed that the cell is no longer able to divide to repair and equip the body – a sign of aging.
Reported by New Scientist, this new study conducted by researchers Sarah James and Daniel Notterman and their team from Princeton University, and set out to see if sleep is associated with telomere length in children, not just adults. The researchers gathered information from a database of children aged 1567 years from cities across the US, including the average sleep duration of children. Saliva samples were also taken from each child to extract DNA and check the length of their telomeres.
The results showed that those with shorter sleep duration also had shorter telomeres, a distance shorter telomeres 1.5 percent for every hour less so the kids sleep per night. These findings could be significant for children’s health in the future, because short telomeres previously associated with cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline.
Although the 9-year-old children in the study did not show signs of the condition, James still commented that the study “raises concerns.”
Exactly how many adults can sleep more confusing, with some previous studies have shown that too much sleep can be just as bad as too little. However, it appears in this study that in the case of children and the aging of cells more sleep better, with James counseled final advice of the bed between 9 and 11 hours per night. Whether more sleep can actually help reverse the shortening of telomeres remains unknown.