Healthy sleep for adults: seven hours is ideal

Healthy sleep in adults
Seven o’clock is ideal

Healthy sleep is important, but how long should it last? A research group from the United States and China is studying this question. In one study, they come up with a number for middle-aged and elderly people.

Seven hours of sleep is the ideal length of sleep for middle-aged and elderly people. This is reported by American and Chinese scientists in the journal “Nature Aging”. The conclusion of the study is that getting more or less sleep is associated with impaired mental health and poorer mental performance. Good sleep is all the more important, especially for the elderly.

Specifically, scientists from the universities of Cambridge and Fuhan looked at data from almost 500,000 adults aged 38 to 73 collected from the UK Biobank, a comprehensive UK database. The subjects were asked about their sleep habits, mental health and well-being, and also took part in a series of cognitive tests. Brain MRI images and genetic data were available for nearly 40,000 participants.

Analyzing all of this information showed that both too little and too much sleep were associated with reduced cognitive performance – the corresponding subjects were slower on tests and had shorter attention spans and poorer abilities. problem solving. Their mental health also suffered: people who slept too much or too little had more symptoms of anxiety and depression and lower overall well-being.

Too much sleep is also a risk factor

Researchers suspect that a disruption of slow-wave sleep, which is part of deep sleep, could be a possible reason for the cognitive decline. Such a disorder is associated with an accumulation of beta-amyloid molecules. These protein deposits, which are found in large clumps in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients, are believed to contribute to nerve cell death.

Analysis of brain scans also revealed an association between different sleep durations and differences in the structure of brain regions involved in cognitive processing and memory. Among them was the hippocampus, which is considered the memory center of the brain. Overall, the researchers conclude, seven hours of consistent sleep appears to be best for cognitive performance, general well-being, and mental health in middle-aged and older people.

Although the study did not describe causation, the results indicated that insufficient or excessive sleep duration could be a risk factor for cognitive decline in the elderly. Author Jianfeng Feng points out in a statement: “Although we cannot say with certainty that too little or too much sleep causes cognitive problems, our analysis, which looks at people over a longer period of time, seems to support this idea. .”

Particularly important in old age

However, the reasons older people slept poorly seemed complex, involving a combination of genetics and brain structure.

Neuropsychologist and co-author Barbara Sahakian adds that good sleep is important at all stages of life, but especially as we age: “Finding ways to improve the sleep of older adults could be crucial in helping them improve their mental health and well-being and prevent cognitive decline, especially in patients with psychiatric disorders and dementia.

In fact, according to the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM), older people in particular often report problems staying asleep, decreased total sleep time, more daytime naps, and increasing use of sleeping pills. Increasingly, however, sleep difficulties are being identified in all age groups and around the world.

In Germany alone, a third of respondents in a 2017 Techniker-Krankenkasse study complained of sleep problems, and one in two said they had slept no more than six hours. According to a guideline from the US National Sleep Foundation (NSF), it should actually be seven to nine hours for adults. However, their authors point out that the need for sleep differs from person to person.

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