Remember your teenage years, when you could snooze past noon like it was your job? Now you wake up before dawn, sans alarm clock. Or, it’s 3 a.m., you’re exhausted...and you Still. Can’t. Sleep. (Us, too.)
It turns out there might be a scientific reason why we’re all tossing and turning more as we get older.
According to new research published in the science journal Neurobiology of Aging, a structure in our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (stay with us) becomes less sensitive to light as we age. It’s the same part of our brain that controls our circadian rhythm (read: internal clock). The researchers found that structural changes in that part of the brain mean signals driven by light aren’t transmitted as well...and that leads to an unstable circadian rhythm. The researchers suggest that, based on observed changes in sleep patterns (i.e., sleeping less or waking up throughout the night), this decline in sleep can begin as early as our twenties.
What do their findings mean for us insomniacs? In short, we might not feel tired even when it gets dark...and it’s not all in our head. Pass the Sleepytime, please.