According to UCLA research published in the journal Sleep Health , popular complaints that mothers are losing years of life due to the strain of spending many sleepless nights caring for their newborn children could be literal: A link has been discovered between the loss of sleep for new mothers and accelerated aging .
33 mothers and their DNA
To reach this conclusion, 33 mothers were studied during their pregnancies and their babies’ first year of life, analyzing the women’s DNA from blood samples to determine their "biological age" , which may differ from age chronological. They thus discovered that one 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 slept 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 at the ends of shoelaces. Shortened telomeres have been linked to an increased risk of cancer , cardiovascular and other diseases, and earlier death.
While the participants’ nighttime sleep ranged from five to nine hours, more than half slept less than seven hours, both six months and a year after giving birth.
L However, the study cohort, which included women who were 23 to 45 years of age six months after delivery, is not a large representative sample of women , the authors said, and more studies are needed to better understand the long-term impact of sleep loss on new mothers.
The study used the latest scientific methods of DNA change analysis to assess biological aging, also known as epigenetic aging . DNA provides the code for making proteins, which carry out many functions in the cells of our body, and epigenetics focuses on whether regions of this code are "open" or "closed." Because specific sites within DNA are turned on or off with aging, the process acts like a kind of clock.