The phrase "Sleep like a baby" is proving more grounded in reality than we thought: According to a new study, it actually becomes harder to sleep as we get older. Yes, even if we turn all electronics off and keep our phones outside the bedroom and shun caffeine after noon and go to bed nine hours before our alarm is set to go off. So honestly, if you're going to sleep poorly anyway, you might as well have a little fun along the way. Coffee for dinner and midnight movies! "We'll sleep when we're dead" has never felt more real!
In a recent article published in the journal Neuron, a team of researchers have pinpointed one possible explanation for the decline in sleep: As we age, the neurological receptors in our brains decline and become less adept at sensing the chemicals that signify fatigue. We're left with tired bodies and brains that won't shut off. Matthew Walker, a co-author of the study and a neuroscience and psychology professor at University of California Berkeley, describes it as a weak radio antenna: "The signal is there," he says, "but the antenna just can't pick it up." And honestly, a weak signal has never been more annoying. No, not even when you're on an important phone call and the call drops.
Beginning in our late 20s, our ability to enjoy deep sleep begins to decline; by 50, most of us will be experiencing about half as much rest than we were 30 years ago, regardless of how much time we spend unconscious. The National Sleep Foundation refers to this as a change in "sleep architecture." Our sleep cycle traditionally is just that — a cycle, moving its way through lighter sleep and deeper, more restorative slumber. Older folks, unfortunately, tend to spend more time in lighter sleep, though their total sleep time remains the same.
I wish I could end this article with some kind of "Aha!" moment, a "Yes, BUT" solution, but my dudes, aging is aging. There's only so much you can to combat it. Your neurological receptors will decline no matter what; you'll get less rest no matter what. My advice? Enjoy that deep-ass sleep while you can.