You might dread turning 30 for a whole host of reasons — like having to finally admit you're an adult, or something. And, while in your 20s you can get by on little-to-no sleep for days at a time, your sleep patterns get worse in your 30s. Unless you're a robot, your body's needs are constantly evolving, which doesn't always feel like a good thing. And now: I'm sad to report that I have more unfavorable news about getting older. A new study by researchers at University of California, Berkeley, suggests that delta sleep, critical for your body's rejuvenation, begins to decline by up to 25 percent in yours 30s. This delta decline, coupled with the fact that the neurochemicals that switch you from sleep to wakefulness are drying up, might be why you feel groggy during the day and wide awake at night.
During college I had three jobs working as a bartender, lifeguard and swim instructor, and for a private investigator. I went out most nights when I wasn't working, and I excelled at school (with the exception of that unfortunate biology class). I honestly don't know when I ever slept, but I don't remember it being a big deal.
Now, in my 30s, one big night out — or even long night in marathoning Wentworth or Gilmore Girls — turns me into the equivalent of an extra from The Walking Dead. Apparently this delta sleep is pretty important, and in your 30s it just stops showing up to the sweet dreams party. Perfect. So, if you're in your 30s, and sleepwalking your way through the day, this is why you're so tired.
You're Not Getting Enough Deep Sleep
The study, "Sleep and Human Aging" by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, was published in the journal Neuron, and explores how sleep quality erodes as you age.
"The important point is that the overall need for quality sleep — deep sleep — is thought to remain, even though it is increasingly hard to get as the body ages," Judith E. Carroll, a psychiatrist who researches neuroscience and human behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Discover magazine.
This deep sleep is also known as delta sleep, and Psychology World described this stage of sleep as the one where brain waves are the most different from those of your waking brain. This is also the most difficult stage of sleep to rouse a person from, and it's the time you're most likely to sleep walk, or talk. According to the study, delta sleep declines by up to 25 percent for women, beginning in their 30s. For once, men have it worse. Their delta sleep can decline by up to 50 percent. Small victories my friends.
Because this happens subtly, over time, you might not be fully aware of it. Carroll, who was not part of the study, suggests asking yourself these questions, according to Discover magazine.
“Do you need more coffee in the morning? Do you feel more tired in the afternoon? Has your overall energy level changed from when you were younger?” If you answered yes, this could be a sign of sleep deprivation.
How To Get More Restful Zzzs
I wish I had better news. So far, scientists haven't figured out how to replicate these delta sleep waves, and unfortunately the only way to get more restorative sleep is to implement those dreaded lifestyle changes. There are sleep-inducing medications, but these don't necessarily lull you into a deep sleep, they basically just knock you out.
TIME magazine recently published a set a sleep rules, which is excerpted from their special edition, "The Science of Sleep." The suggestions includes things like refraining from hitting snooze (you'll enter a new sleep cycle and it will be even harder to wake up); exposing yourself to daylight; not using your tablet, phone, or computer before bed (the light from these devices promotes wakefulness); cut back on the booze (while this makes you feel tired it actually disrupts sleep); and make sure you're getting some type of exercise. Additionally there are also apps that can help lull you to dreamland.
So, I pretty much just listed cutting back on everything fun. Isn't adulting great? While you fondly remember the days of sleeping soundly on a dorm room floor instead of lying wide awake in your big-kid bed, please excuse me while I go apply my wrinkle cream.