Senior woman rests her chin on her hands while sitting alone looking out the window.

Insomnia & Menopause Speed Up Aging in Women

It’s no secret in the elderly care world that some of us age faster or slower than others. Now, two independent studies from UCLA have given us hard data on how early menopause and insomnia can speed up the “biological age” of women. In both studies, researchers found that aging markers in women’s DNA had sped up, causing women who experienced early menopause and insomnia to age more quickly than their peers.

Cells Age 6% Faster After Menopause

two senior women smilingFor years, menopause has been linked to the aging process. But scientists have never been sure whether or not early aging triggers menopause or if it’s the other way around. Some have gone so far as to call this a “chicken and the egg” riddle.

Now, new science has unlocked one of elderly care’s biggest mysteries. Research out of UCLA now suggests that it is menopause that comes first, causing women’s bodies to speed up the rate at which cells age.

As with many scientific studies related to elderly care, the key to the UCLA study lies in DNA. To conduct their study, researchers used an “epigenetic clock” to track changes over time in the DNA of over 3,000 women. Specifically, they tracked DNA methylation, which is linked to the aging process. The UCLA team measured methylation in saliva cells, blood cells, and cells from inner cheek tissue.

During the experiment, they measured methylation levels in these cells before, during, and after women experienced menopause. What they found was that menopause triggered the aging process to speed up in these cells by as much as 6%.

That might not seem like a lot, but it can mean that a woman who begins menopause in her early 40s can have her “biological age” advanced by a full year ahead of schedule before she turns 50. Studies show that the average woman experiences menopause at 51 years old, but that up to 8% of women experience some form of early menopause.

Insomnia Leads to Damaged Cells

In a second study — performed by a separate team of researchers, but using the same “epigenetic clock” to measure the methylation in cells — trouble sleeping was also linked to accelerated aging.

This study measured the biological age of cells from over 2,000 post-menopausal women. Researchers found that patients who suffered from insomnia had cells with advanced biological ages. In fact, women in the study who reported trouble sleeping were found to have a biological age two years older than women who reported healthy sleeping habits.

The good news with the insomnia study is that there is something you can actually do about it. Unlike early menopause, insomnia can usually be managed. As the elderly care professionals at Visiting Angels know, there are a number of strategies for stopping insomnia in seniors that you can use to achieve healthier sleeping habits.



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