Researchers: Too much or too little is linked to lower cognitive performance

A great tip after the age of 40: Sleeping 7 hours a day is ideal

The 500,000 adults between the ages of 38 and 73 were examined by the study.


From experience, many know that going to work the next day after staying out late at night is usually difficult.

But it may come as a surprise to hear that sleeping longer isn't necessarily the best solution, at least for middle-aged or older people, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Aging.

And researchers from Cambridge University in Britain and Fuhan University in Shanghai found that sleeping for seven hours during the night is ideal for middle-aged or older people, and concluded that sleeping for significantly less periods, and also getting more sleep. Too much sleep, may result in delayed mental health and mental performance.

The researchers conducted their study using data from nearly 500,000 adults between the ages of 38 and 73, collected in the UK's Comprehensive Biobank Medical Database.

Participants were asked about their sleep patterns, mental health and general condition, and also took part in a series of cognitive tests.

The researchers gained access to brain MRI images and genetic data from nearly 40,000 people who participated in the study.

The researchers found that both sleeping too much and getting too little sleep were associated with lower cognitive performance.

The researchers suggest that disrupted slow-wave sleep, which is part of deep sleep, may be a possible cause of cognitive decline.

This disorder is accompanied by an accumulation of beta-amyloid particles.

These deposits of the protein, which are present in large clumps within the brains of Alzheimer's patients, are suspected of contributing to the death of neurons.

Analysis of brain scans also revealed a link between different sleep periods and differences in the structure of brain regions involved in cognitive processing and memory.

Among them was the hippocampus, also known as the "hippocampus", which is the center of the brain's memory.

Overall, the researchers found, getting seven hours of sleep straight seems ideal for improving cognitive performance, general well-being, and mental health in middle-aged and older people.

While the study doesn't talk about causation, the findings suggest that inadequate or excessive sleep may be a risk factor for cognitive decline in old age, the researchers said.

Professor Jianfeng Feng from Fudan University said: "While we can't definitively say that getting too little or too much sleep causes cognitive problems, our analysis of individuals over a longer period of time seems to support this idea.

However, the reasons why older adults sleep a few hours seems complex, and is influenced by a combination of our genetic makeup and the structure of our brains.”

Professor Jianfeng:

• "The reasons why older adults sleep a few hours seems complex, and is influenced by a combination of our genetic makeup and the structure of our brains."

Important in all stages of life

Study co-author Barbara Sahakian, from the University of Cambridge, said: "Getting a good night's sleep is important throughout life, especially as we get older.

Finding ways to improve sleep in older adults can be important to help them maintain good mental health and wellness, and avoid cognitive decline, especially for patients with mental disorders and dementia.”

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