New research has shown that about seven hours of sleep is optimal rest at night, with both insufficient and excessive sleep linked to impaired ability to pay attention, remember and learn new things, solve problems and to take decisions.
Seven hours of sleep was also associated with better mental health, with people experiencing more symptoms of anxiety and depression and worse general well-being if they reported longer or shorter periods of sleep.
“But the reasons older people have poor sleep appear to be complex, influenced by a combination of genetic makeup and the structure of our brains.”
Chinese and British researchers analyzed data from almost 500,000 adults aged 38 to 73 who were part of the UK Biobank – a government-backed long-term health study. Participants were asked about their sleep habits, mental health and well-being, and took part in a series of cognitive tests. Brain imaging and genetic data were available for nearly 40,000 study participants.
One reason for the association between poor sleep and cognitive decline could be deep sleep disorder, which occurs when the brain repairs the body from the wear and tear of the day and strengthens memories. Lack of sleep is also linked to the buildup of amyloid, a key protein that can cause the tangles in the brain that characterize a form of dementia. The study also indicated that prolonged sleep duration can result from poor and distracted sleep quality.
Longer sleep durations have been linked to cognitive problems, but it’s not clear why, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and associate professor of clinical medicine at Keck. University of Southern California School of Medicine.
“This marks an important milestone for future research and the search for a cure,” said Dasgupta, who was not involved in the research. “Sleep is essential as we age, and we need it as much as we need it for young adults, but it’s hard to get.”
The study had some limitations – it only assessed how long participants slept together and no other measures of sleep quality, such as nighttime awakenings. Additionally, participants reported how much sleep they got, so this was not measured objectively. However, the authors said the large number of people involved in the study means their conclusions are likely to be strong.
The authors said their findings suggest that regular sleep, ideally around seven o’clock, is important.
The study showed a link between too much sleep, too little sleep and cognitive problems, not cause and effect. Russell Foster, a professor at Oxford University and director of the Sir Jules Thorne Institute for Sleep and Compound Neuroscience, who was not involved in the research, warned. He said the study did not take into account the health status of individuals and that short or long sleep could indicate underlying health issues with cognitive problems.
He also said that taking an average of seven hours as the optimal amount of sleep “ignores the fact that there is significant individual variation in sleep duration and quality.” He said lack of or more sleep can be perfectly healthy for some people.
“We are regularly told that the ‘ideal’ night’s sleep for seniors should be seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. This belief is wrong in many ways. Sleep is like shoe size; one size doesn’t fit all, and by note,” said Foster, author of the forthcoming book Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock, and How It Can Revolutionize Your Sleep and Your Health,” said Foster, Bon sleep” this way can cause confusion and anxiety for many.
“How long we sleep, our preferred sleep times and how often we wake up during the night vary greatly between individuals and as we age. Sleep is dynamic, we all have different sleeping habits, and the key is to assess what our individual needs are.
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