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Add this natural aging process to the list of potential insomnia causes

As we age, the lenses in our eyes start to yellow and this reduces the transmission of blue light to the retina. This can create sleep problems such as insomnia since our sleep patterns and circadian rhythms are largely regulated by blue light.

A Danish study recently examined the eyes of 970 volunteers aged between 30 and 60 years of age. The researchers found that the lower the blue light transmission into the retina due to natural yellowing of the lens, the greater the risk of the participant reporting insomnia or the use of sleeping pills.

It's also worth noting that researchers found the rates of sleep disturbances was significantly higher, not only in older research participants, but also in women, smokers and those with diabetes. This is particularly interesting since previous studies have linked smoking and diabetes with accelerated rates of lens aging.

You can't reverse the natural aging process, but you may be able to make changes to your diet to reduce your risk of diabetes. Quitting smoking might be a good idea, too.

Source: SLEEP

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Last updated: October 11, 2011

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • A. Marina Fournier
    October 12, 2011, 2:10 am

    I shall have to ask my ophthalmologist whether my lenses have yellowed significantly. Having had insomnia all my life, and it having become markedly easier to get to sleep (but harder to rise, or to have restful sleep in only 8 hrs.), I’d say a lessening of blue light entering my eyes is not affecting my sleep.

    This being said, I have narrow, or closed, angle glaucoma in my left, very farsighted eye, open angle glaucoma in my right, plain middle-aged eye, and 2/4 stage cataracts in both, just to make it more fun! I am using drops for the glaucoma, and trying to figure out whether the cataract removals and reconstruction will be late next year or in 2013, or even farther out, such as when I’m due for new frames.

    Now, the only thing I could possibly notice about my vision at this point, is that it takes more/brighter light to do close work, but that could be due to ordinary eye aging, and the discovery that full-spectrum lighting for ordinary lighting fixtures exist, and I’d rather have lamps and overheads be as close to natural light as possible, escpecially in late autumn to early spring, to combat SAD. While it isn’t only bipolars who get SAD, a large proportion of us do, as well as having Issues with Insomnia.

  • Stephan
    October 12, 2011, 12:23 am

    Good find. Add this to list of the many issues that can contribute to sleeping problems as one ages.

    Another common problem for many older individuals is a biological clock that speeds up faster than normal, so 8 p.m. feels more like 11 p.m. And 4 a.m. feels more like 7 a.m. Very common for older folks to experience more of a 20 to 22 hour day, which can cause problems in a 24-hour world.

    Fortunately, there are a number of things one can do to help counter this age-related tendency for insomnia. One of the most important keys for older individuals is to set and keep a consistent bed time. In other words, use a consistent bed time as the single point in your daily circadian rhythm to resynchronize a speedier-than-normal biological clock back to the 24-hour day.

    Daily exercise, ongoing stress and anxiety management, setting meaningful goals, an appropriate diet, and a positive social support network are other important contributors to robust sleep as one ages. They can all work together to help counter insomnia without drugs.