Sleep is regarded as a cornerstone of good physical and mental health.
From revitalising our tired bodies after a tough day to even lowering the risk of health conditions including heart disease and diabetes, sleep has a vital role to play.
However, while many of us aim for a full eight hours of slumber every night, a new study by the Washington University School of Medicine claims that, just like getting too little, sleeping too much may be linked with cognitive decline and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Studying the sleep patterns of one hundred adults in their mid-to-late 70s over five years using an EEG machine, researchers noted that twelve participants showed signs of cognitive decline, including mild dementia.
Analysing the data, they discovered that sleeping less than 4.5 hours and more than 6.5 hours a night – alongside poor quality of sleep – was associated with cognitive decline over time.
Additionally, the impact of sleep duration on cognitive function was similar to the effect of age, which is the greatest risk factor for developing cognitive decline.
The study also acknowledged that other factors such as a pre-existing condition, socio-economic status or physical activity levels also play a significant role in ongoing cognitive functions and that sleep quality may well be more important than the actual length of time spent sleeping.
While some of these factors are not preventable (such as genetic predisposition), there are many things we can do alongside getting a good night’s sleep to help reduce our likelihood of developing dementia – such as exercising and eating a healthy diet.
But while the researchers of this study suggest there is an optimal sleep duration, between 4.5 and 6.5 hours every night, the occasional, well-deserved, weekend lie-in is unlikely to do your brain any harm.
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