Our current Learning in Retirement topic is “Stress and your body.” Yesterday’s lecture in the Panorama Auditorium focused on the connections between stress, sleep, and aging. While stress and sleep are important topics for people of all ages, this particular lecture spoke directly to our audience, which was filled with retired seniors of varied ages.
As we age, our body’s ability to handle stress begins decreasing. This explains why a 30-year-old and a 75-year-old could fall in the same manner, on the same patch of ice, and the 75-year-old ends up with a broken bone, while the 30-year-old walks away unscathed. The same concept applies to mental stress.
Sleep is controlled by the release of certain hormones. The presence of stress, anxiety and depression tend to upset the balance of these hormones, affecting the amount and quality of sleep we are able to attain. So, what does aging have to do with this? As previously stated, aging affects our body’s ability to handle stress. The imbalance of hormone activity that happens in response to stress can be more pronounced in older adults, thus affecting sleep to a greater degree.
The lecture covered all the science and explained the details. The key take away: While the fact that stress has a direct affect on the amount and quality of sleep for all ages, the impact commonly becomes larger as we grow older.