A study from Stanford Medicine has given us a new metric by which to predict mortality: sleep age.
What is Sleep Age?
Your “sleep age” is a projected age associated with your level of health.
People tend to sleep differently at different ages. And, changes in sleep quality are one of the first and most well-documented signs of aging and poor health .
The calculation of your sleep age is based on the analysis of your sleep quality and characteristics. Sleep characteristics include things like chin and leg movement, breathing, and heartbeat.
The strongest predictor of mortality, according to the study, however, is sleep fragmentation. Unlike insomnia, where you wake and are aware, sleep fragmentation is when you wake up multiple times during the night for less than a minute without remembering it.
In most disorders or disease states, sleep is one of the first things that is disturbed. For example, Parkinson’s disease patients typically experience a specific type of sleep disturbance five to ten years before diagnosis. In this pre-Parkinson’s disturbance, the patient violently acts out dreams, shouts, or punches while fast asleep .
How do you determine one’s sleep age?
In this study, researchers analyzed the sleep characteristics of 12,000 participants within specific age groups. By averaging the characteristics within each age group, they managed to develop an algorithm around what sleep looks like at that age.
Now, by measuring one individual’s sleep characteristics and comparing them to these established averages, the algorithm can determine a person’s sleep age.
If your sleep age is younger than, or similar to your chronological age, you are likely faring well, healthwise. If your sleep age is older than your chronological age, it may be a wellness wake up call. A sleep age far beyond your years can be an indicator of a health problem or sleep disorder .
There is no way, at this point, for us to score our own sleep age at home. However, the code/algorithm is available for physicians and researchers to use if interested. You can talk to your doctor if you are interested in having your sleep age assessed.
The future goal is that AI machines will be able measure sleep characteristics and reliably calculate sleep age, eliminating human error and increasing the comfortability of the sleeper.
Can you change your sleep age?
Sleep age is not a prognosis or a crystal ball, it’s a prediction based on a snapshot of your current level of health. You could compare this metric to the way your blood pressure or cholesterol can help predict your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Just like your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, you may be able to improve your sleep by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, sleep hygiene is key, with a consistent bedtime routine that you adhere to. Sleep hygiene refers to creating a bedroom environment that is dark, cook, quiet, and conducive to sleep. Not everyone needs the exact same amount of sleep, but most adults should aim for seven to eight hours a night, getting in bed early enough so you have time to fall asleep without stress.
Refrain from looking at blue light screens (tablets, phones, etc) for at least an hour before bed. Try not to eat heavy meals late at night . Don’t drink alcohol excessively, or within two hours of bedtime, and skip the caffeine after lunch.
See the Light
You should see the sun during the day. Sleep is naturally supported by the circadian rhythm in the body, which is determined, in part, by your eyes registering light during the day and dark at night. Too much light at night or not enough during the day is disruptive to both nighttime sleep and daytime wakefulness .
Move Your Body
You should make a habit of physical activity (moderate to intense exercise) in the mornings or afternoons (not before bed). Daily social interaction is also good for both mood and sleep quality . You could go two-for-one by partaking in a team sport or group aerobics class!
Change the Way You Eat
You should eat a healthy, balanced diet, but let go of carbohydrate fears. A 2017 study concluded that a light evening meal rich in carbohydrates may be the best way to eat to bring on sleep . BUT, think whole grains and root vegetables, not white bread or refined flour pasta.
If you are having trouble falling asleep in the evening, you may want to try a nutritional formula that contains the calming neurotransmitter GABA. Magnesium and the amino acid glycine can also contribute to feelings of relaxation in the body.
If you’re looking for an all natural sleep formula that supports quality sleep, we recommend Metabolic Maintenance’s R.E.M. Maintenance formula. Designed by physicians, this formula contains potent doses of nutrients that support falling and staying asleep, and production of neurotransmitters that promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. Read more about it in an article linked here.
- Brink-Kjaer, Andreas, et al. “Age estimation from sleep studies using deep learning predicts life expectancy.” NPJ digital medicine 5.1 (2022): 1-10.
- Beydoun, Hind A., et al. “Association of sleep disturbance with Parkinson disease: evidence from the Women’s Health Initiative.” Menopause 29.3 (2022): 255-263.
- Partinen, Markku. “Nutrition and sleep.” Sleep Disorders Medicine. Springer, New York, NY, 2017. 539-558.
- Brown, Timothy M., et al. “Recommendations for daytime, evening, and nighttime indoor light exposure to best support physiology, sleep, and wakefulness in healthy adults.” PLoS biology 20.3 (2022): e3001571.
- Youngstedt, Shawn D., et al. “Testing the sleep hygiene recommendation against nighttime exercise.” Sleep and Breathing 25.4 (2021): 2189-2196.
- Wang, Feifei, and Éva Bíró. “Determinants of sleep quality in college students: A literature review.” Explore 17.2 (2021): 170-177.