Hormones tied to elderly sleep problems

April 12, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Have you ever wondered why grandma and grandpa head to bed early but are up with the sun every morning? A new study by Lucia Pagani and Steven A. Brown of the University of Zurich recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may have the answers.

The human body’s circadian clock is controlled by the expression of circadian genes with the cells, and our sleep pattern is determined by the expression peaks in these genes. Within the elderly, the peak expression is usually earlier than that seen in the younger population.

Researchers collected skin cells from both young and elderly individuals in order to compare the internal circadian cycles. In the first experiment, both sets of skin cells were grown in a bovine serum. When observed, these skin cells showed no difference in the .

In the second experiment, researchers cultured the skin cells in human serum collected from older donors. When these cells were observed, the circadian rhythms were seen to all have shifted to that normally seen in the elderly.

The results of this research show that changes in levels found in the blood of the elderly may play a role in the changing of the circadian clocks.

Further research is needed, however, the possibility that hormones could be responsible for the sleep disturbances and changes seen in the elderly open the possibility for the creation of medications targeted at these changes.

Researchers do say that other factors could play a role in the earlier schedules of the elderly, such as less sunlight or time spent outdoors.

Explore further: Separating morning and evening in the circadian clock of mammals

More information: Serum factors in older individuals change cellular clock properties, PNAS April 11, 2011. Published online before print April 11, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1008882108

Related Stories

Chronic drinking can disrupt circadian rhythms

August 24, 2010

Circadian rhythmicity is regulated by circadian clock genes, and animal studies have shown that chronic drinking can alter expressions in these genes. A new study has found that significantly lower levels of messenger ribonucleic ...

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wealthychef
not rated yet Apr 12, 2011
What kind of supplements could an elderly person try? Would pregnenolone help?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.