Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Slow Aging with Adequate Sleep

Insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality have been linked to accelerated aging and increased risk of illness. 

A healthy sleep duration is 7 or more hours of sleep.  Biological aging differs from chronological aging and involves increased risk for disease and early death.  A single night of partial sleep deprivation in older adults activated genes causing biological aging such as increased inflammation, damage to DNA, and cell dysfunction. 

In a study of 33 new mothers, blood samples were taken to evaluate DNA and telomere length.  At 6 months after giving birth, the biological age of the mothers who slept less than 7 hours per night was 3 to 7 years older than those mothers who slept 7 hours or more.  The moms who slept less than 7 hours also had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells.  Telomeres are small protective caps at the ends of DNA, and shortened telomeres have been linked to higher risk of cardiovascular problems, cancer, and shortened lifespan. 

Takeaway:  Sleep deprivation increases risk of illness and shortened lifespan.  Aim for 7 or more hours of sleep.


Judith E. Carroll, et al., Postpartum Sleep Loss and Accelerated Epigenetic Aging, 7 Sleep Health 362, June 2021,

Daniel F. Kripke, Mortality Associated with Sleep Duration and Insomnia, Arch Gen Psychiatry.2002,

Sairam Parthasarathy, Persistent Insomnia is Associated with Mortality Risk, 128 American Journal of Medicine 268, 2015,

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