Rip Van Winkle slept twenty years and woke up an old man. Recent research is showing that had he really slept twenty years, he might not have aged at all. Sleeping helps you live longer.
We know that while some cells in our bodies (like brain cells) never replenish themselves, the rest of the cells in our bodies can. That’s why when you cut your finger or damage your liver those damaged cells are replaced with new, healed cells. Aging is the point at which our cells no longer renew themselves and instead begin dying.
Strangely enough, our cells all begin aging at different rates, depending on which type of cell it is. For example, our lung cells start aging as early as twenty years of age, while our liver cells begin diminishing around seventy.
The reason for cells aging has to do with telomeres. You can think of telomeres like those plastic tips on the ends of your shoelaces. As time passes, the plastic tip starts to shorten until they’re gone and your laces becoming all stringy and fall apart.Telomeres protect the chromosomes from degeneration for as long as they can. As telomeres become shorter and they break down, cells age and die.
When we sleep, we also know that our cells rejuvenate at a faster rate. A [popup url=http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=29278 height=”500″width=”460”]sleep and aging study [/popup]from the September 2014 issue of Sleep found that sleep quality and duration slowed down the shortening of the telomeres, suggesting that a good night’s sleep may actually prolong your life.
Think about that for a moment. Sleeping is about more than just whether or not you’re in a good mood the next day, or have enough energy to think clearly on the job. Sleeping can save your life.
Watch this TED talk by Aubrey de Grey, a man with a long beard reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle. He is rocking the medical world with his idea that we can treat aging like a disease and effectively cure it with aggressive research and therapies.