What is the right amount of sleep? We all have heard that 8 hours is the efficient amount. But is that really the case for all? A new study answered this important question for those moving from middle to old age.
Researchers from the UK's Cambridge University and China's Fudan University examined the data collected from half a million participants, ranging from age 38 to 73 for their study. Each participants was given several questions to answer regarding their sleep patterns, length of sleep, mental health, and overall well-being. About 40,000 participants also had additional information such as brain imaging profiles and genetic information available to use in the study.
After conducting their study and analysing the data, researchers discovered that participants with the best cognitive performance and overall well-being had about 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a day. The study also showed that people getting more or less than 7 hours of sleep seemed to correlate with a decline in cognitive abilities. These included problems with memory, problem-solving skills and were more prone to issues with their mental health experiencing signs of anxiety or depression.
Professor Jianfeng Feng from Fudan University explained that, “While we can’t say conclusively that too little or too much sleep causes cognitive problems, our analysis looking at individuals over a longer period of time appears to support this idea. But the reasons why older people have poorer sleep appear to be complex, influenced by a combination of our genetic makeup and the structure of our brains.”
Researchers of the study believe that the declines and lack of sleep are related to an interruption of deep sleep. However not only does one need 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but consistency is also key.
Without consistency people are at increased risk for issues. Previous studies have shown that interrupted sleep patterns are often associated with inflammation which can be caused by age-related diseases. Study author Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge has a good reminder for anyone getting older. “Getting a good night’s sleep is important at all stages of life, but particularly as we age. Finding ways to improve sleep for older people could be crucial to helping them maintain good mental health and wellbeing and avoiding cognitive decline, particularly for patients with psychiatric disorders and dementias.”