While no one has found the mythical Fountain of Youth, that doesn't mean people have stopped searching for it. Some are just searching for it in a different way - by trying to reverse the aging process.
Among those looking for ways to turn back the hands of time are researchers at the Department of Child Health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
Study authors at the school admit that while a person's chronological age can't be reversed, an individual's biological age can be reversed through healthy living.
Good eating habits and working out regularly are two things that may likely come to mind when you think of healthy living, but what about sleep?
'Sleep is a critical factor in how you age,' said Dr. Sean Endsley of Legends Dental in Waco, Texas.
The link between sleep and aging was supported in a study published earlier this year in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Study authors analyzed the connection between obstructive sleep apnea, known widely as OSA, and inflammation. They also took a look at the damage chronic inflammation causes to the organs and tissues.
During their research, the study authors found that those living with OSA had higher levels of two specific pro-inflammatory cytokines. They then compared and contrasted how the cytokines affected cells in the body.
What they found was that OSA keeps the body in a low-intensity, but persistent, inflamed state.
What Is OSA?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious health condition in which the sufferer experiences repeated interruptions during sleep caused by stopping and starting breathing. These interruptions are often caused when the throat muscles repeatedly collapse during sleep.
'When throat muscles relax, they block the flow of air, causing you to wake up,' Endsley said.
This often causes individuals to gasp for breath and wake up during the night.
'So individuals with OSA are not getting restful sleep,' Endsley said.
There are other side effects of living with OSA, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome and cancer.
Other effects of the condition include changes in neurocognition, loss of memory, mood swings and behavior disorders, including anxiety and depression.
Conventional treatments for OSA often include the surgical removal of tonsil and adenoid tissues for adolescents and children and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines for adults.
Researchers estimate that around 22 million Americans are living with a form of sleep apnea, and many of them are untreated.
Other treatments for OSA include oral appliances that help to put the lower jaw into the proper position to prevent the tongue from blocking the airway.
The University of Missouri research team is hopeful that their project will help other researchers understand and learn the biomarkers that can help to diagnose OSA and improve the future of sleep apnea treatments.
Source: University of Missouri. 'Obstructive sleep apnea linked to inflammation, organ dysfunction: Mechanisms of apnea-related inflammation.' ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2019.