A recent study has offered new revelations into why older people have sleeping problems and adjusting to time changes.
The study of the brain's master circadian clock - known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN - revealed that a key pattern of rhythmic neural activity begins to decline by middle age.
"Aging has a profound effect on circadian timing," said Gene Block, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences.
"It is very clear that animals' circadian systems begin to deteriorate as they age, and humans have enormous problems with the quality of their sleep as they age, difficulty adjusting to time-zone changes and difficulty performing shift-work, as well as less alertness when awake.
"There is a real change in the sleep-wake cycle.
"This paper suggests a primary cause of at least some of these changes is a reduction in the amplitude of the rhythmic signals from the SCN," stated Block, who is the senior author of the study.The SCN, located in the hypothalamus, is the central circadian clock in humans and other mammals and controls not only the timing of the sleep-wake cycle but also many other rhythmic and non-rhythmic processes in the body.
The study was published July 13 in the Journal of Neuroscience.