How Much Sleep Should Middle and Old Age People Have?

Courtesy of Olichel (Pixabay CC0)

The question about how much sleep one should have has been pondered for years. Scientists believe they have figured out the optimal sleep time for middle and old-age individuals. A recent study states that ideally, they should have seven hours.

The research further found that insufficient or excessive sleep reduced a person’s ability to pay attention, learn new things, solve problems, remember, and make decisions.

People who rest seven hours have been found to have better mental health. Those who slumber less than that have been linked to experiencing more symptoms of depression and anxiety along with worse overall well-being.

Professor at China’s Fudan University and an author of the study, Jianfeng Feng, stated that they cannot conclusively say “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.”

Feng added that older individuals’ imperfect sleep habits seem “to be complex, influenced by a combination of our genetic makeup and the structure of [one’s] brains.”

To gather their data researchers from the United Kingdom and China analyzed information from almost 500,000 adults ages 38 to 73 who were part of the UK Biobank — a health study that has been backed by the government for a long time.

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Those who participated in the study were asked about their slumber patterns, well-being, and mental health. They also took part in a series of cognitive tests.

Scientists had genetic data and brain imaging available for nearly 40,000 of the slumber participants.

Other data collected showed that those who had significant difficulty falling asleep or experienced frequent night awakenings have a higher risk of developing dementia. They may also die early from any cause. Those who sleep less than six hours a night have been linked to developing cardiovascular disease.

One link between cognitive decline and lack of slumber could be a disruption of deep sleep.  Slow-wave slumber allows one’s brain to repair the body from the day’s wear and tear and consolidate memories.

When a person does not rest enough they develop a build-up of amyloid — a key protein that can cause snarls in the brain that characterize some form of dementia. The research also suggested a prolonged sleep span stems from poor quality, fragmented sleep.

Those who slumber for longer durations experience cognitive issues, however, it is unclear why, stated assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Raj Dasgupta.

He added, “This sets a mark for future research and the search for treatment.” Dasgupta was not involved in the recent study.

Slumber is important as people age. They “need just as much as younger people, but it’s harder to come by,” he stated.

The recent study only assessed the length of time the participants slept in total and not any other measure of sleep quality —like how many times they woke during the night. Additionally, the study was not objectively measured by researchers — participants reported their amount of sleep.

Physicians have stated that most adults require seven to nine hours of rest a night. Some individuals may need only six hours while others require as many as 10 hours of slumber each day. Doctors advise those 65 and older should sleep around seven to 8 hours a night.

Written by Sheena Robertson


WebMD: How Much Sleep Do I Need?
CNN: Scientists say they have nailed down the ideal amount of sleep in middle and old age; by Katie Hunt
Sleep Association: Deep Sleep: How to Get More of It

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