Home / Juvenon Health Journal / The Need for Sleep: Why Changes in Quality and Quantity Matter


Juvenon Health Journal volume 6 number 9 september 2007

Promoting Continuous Sleep: a wake-up call for healthier aging

By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.

Remember the day after an all-night party? Probably not very well, as your mind and body weren’t functioning at anywhere near full capacity. From experience, most of us are aware that we need a certain number of sleep-hours to maintain a sharp mind and sound body. What may not be so obvious is the quality of sleep we require for optimum physical and mental health. Research into this topic has been instrumental in providing such Juvenon benefits as deeper, more continuous, more regular sleep. 

Do Not Disturb
Continuous, undisturbed sleep. It’s what we require for consolidation of memory — the transfer of short-term memory (all we experienced in a day) to meaningful, long-term memory.[Image of woman sleeping soundly.]There is also a plethora of information from scientific studies that demonstrates, or at least suggests, an association between disturbed sleep patterns and an increase in numerous diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality. Certain negative indicators of health occur. For example, blood levels of cortisol and lipids increase, as does blood pressure.

New experimental information gleaned from studies on the common fruit fly (see below), links aging to interrupted or fragmented sleep as well. Unfortunately, as we age, continuous sleep is gradually replaced by fragmented sleep. Again, this type of sleep is not healthy and may be at least partly responsible for age-related issues, such as increased cardiovascular disease, diabetes and impaired memory. In fact, many experts believe that fragmented sleep can be used as a measure of frailty in humans.

Nap Time Again
The lack of a good night’s sleep is commonly associated with increased periods of wakefulness and symptoms like the need for frequent naps, even dosing off during the daytime hours. This is necessary because the previous night’s interrupted sleep pattern did not satisfy the body’s requirement for the rejuvenating properties of continuous sleep. But catnaps aren’t as effective as continuous sleep. Consequently our mental and physical health suffers.

Fruit Flies and Us
The fruit fly (Drosophila) studies mentioned earlier, and conducted recently at the University of Pennsylvania, produced exciting data that may help explain some of the factors or mechanisms involved in age-associated fragmented sleep.

Why the fruit fly for a human model? (How far from “human” can we get?) They actually share several of our issues with sleep. The Penn fruit flies slept and, believe it or not, their sleep was continuous when they were younger. But with age, the sleep pattern steadily became more fragmented and they began to take more daytime naps, just like us.

Even more interesting? This age-associated increase in fragmented sleep could be manipulated. By placing the flies in a condition that extended lifespan, such as lower ambient temperature, the occurrence of fragmented sleep was delayed. In other words, this event is physiological. Healthy, long-lived flies normally have a delay in the age at which they develop fragmented sleep. If this correlates to humans, there may be a significant health-determined variation in the onset age of fragmented sleep.

Oxidative Stress
Because fragmented sleep is associated with aging, which is also associated with increased cellular damage (observed in virtually all animals, including humans, as they age), the Penn investigators also hypothesized that cell-damaging oxidants could be an upstream cause of fragmented sleep.

To test this theory, they treated young flies with paraquat, a chemical insecticide that generates oxidants which essentially rust vital cellular structures in most living creatures, including man. The results were unequivocal: the paraquat-treated young flies rapidly developed the fragmented sleep patterns seen in aged flies. Oxidative damage played a definite role in interfering with one or more of the delicate biochemical pathways involved in promoting healthy, continuous sleep in fruit flies.

Oxidative damage played a definite role in interfering with one or more of the delicate biochemical pathways involved in promoting healthy continuous sleep in fruit flies.

But how are humans exposed to damaging oxidants? Some, including chemicals, cigarette smoke, and alcohol, are present in our environment. Normal metabolic activity, including processing food into cellular energy, produces oxidants, too. Much of the damage can be repaired, but a portion remains in the cell and accumulates with age.

Prevent and Protect
So, if oxidative damage is a major contributing factor to fragmented sleep, then can a regular dose of antioxidants reverse it? There is no conclusive evidence to date, however, the research in this area is new. Much more experimental data will need to be generated and analyzed before clear recommendations can be made.

There are some preventative steps we can take, though. Avoid environmental substances known to accelerate oxidative damage. And maintain a diet high in fruits, vegetables, berries and legumes that contain compounds proven to protect cells. These precautions should help prevent, or at least minimize, oxidative damage and, consequently, promote healthy, continuous sleep.


Research Update

Due to the difficulties of studying sleep in humans, and after observing similar sleep characteristics in common fruit flies, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania decided to use the flies as a model to study the effects of aging on sleep:wake cycles. Their goals were not only to document how sleep patterns change with age, but also to test the theory that disrupted or fragmented sleep could be the result of an accumulation of oxidative cellular damage.

The investigators noted that human fragmented sleep is:
» a common change with age.
» characterized by frequent periods of wakefulness during normal sleep hours and naps during daytime hours.
» unhealthy and associated with an increase in numerous diseases and mortality.

They monitored the same progression in their fly subjects: from more continuous sleep in the younger flies to more disrupted sleep in the older ones. To test the hypothesis that this change is the result of a corresponding accumulation of cellular oxidative damage, they used paraquat, an insecticide, to chemically induce oxidative stress in some of the young flies.

As the damage done by the oxidant accumulated in their cells, the young flies exhibited more fragmented sleep. By replicating the accumulation of oxidative cellular damage that occurs with age, the researchers showed that it is at least partly responsible for the disruption of the sleep:wake cycle.

To read the abstract, click here.
“A Drosophila model for age-associated changes in sleep:wake cycles ”
PNAS | September 12, 2006 | vol. 103 | no. 37 | 13843-13847

This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.

Ask Ben
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement

QUESTION: After taking Juvenon for two weeks— one tablet in the morning and one at noontime — I sleep much more soundly and feel more rested in the morning. Have others reported this benefit of Juvenon? Are there sleep-inducing components in the supplement? — M.C.

ANSWER: A number of people have written to me about these Juvenon benefits! To date, we have not designed an experiment to determine the mechanisms that may be altered by the supplement to produce improved sleep.

The supplement does not contain any tranquilizers or other sleep-inducing chemicals. However, thanks to the active compounds, Juvenon benefits include improved cellular health. This results when the compounds act upon, and enhance the efficiency of, the energy-producing cellular organelle, the mitochondrion. A more efficient mitochondrion is one that produces fewer oxidants and supplies the cell with the energy required to clean house, so to speak.

An energized cell, free of cellular debris, will be more effective at maintaining biochemical homeostasis, a balance or synchronization of biochemical pathways. It is possible that the cells of the brain, especially those comprising the sleep center, may be restored to this healthier, more synchronized state by Juvenon, producing improved sleep.

Send your questions to AskBen@juvenon.com.
For more questions and answers, go to juvenon.com/product/qa.htm.

Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.

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