Untreated obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing problems may accelerate aging, according to a study abstract published in the journal Sleep.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School examined blood samples from 622 participants with untreated sleep disordered breathing to look for epigenetic changes in their DNA. Epigenetics refers to changes in the DNA that result from lifestyle and environmental factors. Such changes can affect how genes behave, as well as biological aging.
The researchers found that sleep-disordered breathing is linked to accelerated epigenetic aging, or early aging of the DNA within cells, and that this association increases with the severity of sleep breathing problems.
The data also showed that sleep disordered breathing leads to more significant epigenetic changes and accelerated aging in women than in men.
Fortunately, epigenetic changes are reversible, and sleep apnea is treatable. Understanding the effect of sleep apnea on aging would have significant implications for better health and longevity.