New mothers’ sleep loss linked to accelerated aging

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Too little sleep in first six months after birth can add 3 to 7 years to women’s ‘biological age,’ UCLA scientists report. Photo: Pexels

(Science Daily/ University of California) — When new mothers complain that all those sleepless nights caring for their newborns are taking years off their life, they just might be right, UCLA research published this summer in the journal Sleep Health suggests.

Scientists studied 33 mothers during their pregnancies and the first year of their babies’ lives, analyzing the women’s DNA from blood samples to determine their “biological age,” which can differ from chronological age. They found that a year after giving birth, the biological age of mothers who slept less than seven hours a night at the six-month mark was three to seven years older than those who logged seven hours or more.

Mothers who slept less than seven hours also had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells. These small pieces of DNA at the ends of chromosomes act as protective caps, like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces. Shortened telomeres have been linked to a higher risk of cancers, cardiovascular and other diseases, and earlier death. (…)

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