Scientists identify the optimal amount of sleep for good brain health after age 50

Sleep accounts for more than a third of our lives. And for good reason, it is essential for the proper functioning of our body: it is crucial for the growth, maturation of the brain, the development and preservation of our cognitive abilities. It is essential for the adjustment of many hormonal secretions and for the maintenance of the internal temperature. In children, good quality sleep is essential for their development and helps them in their learning, while in adults it allows especially physical, psychological and intellectual recovery. The average sleep duration is between 6 and 9 hours per night in adults, but as we age we are more likely to experience changes in our sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. , as well as a decrease in its quantity and quality.

Several studies have noted a link between sleep disorders and impaired cognitive abilities, possibly in both directions: are cognitive disorders related to sleep disorders or, ultimately, could the latter promote cognitive decline. Therefore, it is important to know the optimal duration of sleep to prevent this risk as much as possible, which scientists at Cambridge University and Fudan University have tried to determine. His study published in the journal Aging in nature involved looking at data from almost 500,000 adults, from a database called the UK Biobank. Participants were asked about their sleep habits, mental health, and well-being, and participated in a series of cognitive tests. Brain imaging and genetic data were available to 40,000 study participants.

Deep sleep is disturbed if the nights are too short

Analyzing this data, the scientific team found that both insufficient sleep duration and excessive sleep duration were associated with impaired cognitive performance, such as information processing speed, attention, memory, and memory. problem solving skills. Thus, a seven-hour night would be the ideal sleep window to adopt in order to better preserve these cognitive benefits. As well as for optimal mental health because ” people experienced more symptoms of anxiety and depression and less general well-being if they reported sleeping for more or less time.. “Among the hypotheses raised to explain this association between insufficient sleep and cognitive decline, the fact that slow-wave sleep or” deep “sleep is disturbed is one of the hypotheses.

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Deep sleep, considered the most restful, is especially present in the first half of the night. However, the elderly are often affected by changes in sleep architecture, with deep sleep disappearing in slow waves, as explained by the Ministry of Health. Besides, “ Disruption of this type of sleep has been shown to be strongly linked to memory consolidation as well as the accumulation of amyloid, a key protein that, when misfolded, can cause “messes” in the brain. characteristic of some forms of dementia.“Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, is characterized, among other things, by the abnormal accumulation of this protein, which leads to the formation of” senile plaques. ” the fact that lack of sleep can hinder the brain’s ability to get rid of toxins.

“Having a good night’s sleep is important, especially as we age.”

Finally, the scientific team recommends a constant sleep duration of seven hours each night, with no fluctuations in duration and above all no interruptions. “ Although we cannot conclusively say that too little or too much sleep causes cognitive problems, our analysis supports this idea. But the reasons why older people sleep less seem to be complex, related to a combination of our genetics and brain structure. says Professor Jianfeng Feng of Fudan University. The next step for the team will be to determine the extent to which insufficient or excessive sleep duration can be a risk factor for aging-related cognitive decline. This is based on previous studies that have already reported a link between sleep duration and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, of which cognitive impairment is a characteristic symptom.

However, these first results are important because they remind us that an adequate amount of sleep is one of the keys to maintaining good brain health. “ Sleeping well is important at every stage of life, but especially as we age. Finding ways to improve sleep in older adults could be crucial in helping them maintain good mental health and prevent cognitive decline, especially for patients with psychiatric disorders and dementia. concludes the scientific team. This is why it is much more important to see your GP in the event of sleep disorders (insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea syndrome). In order to diagnose these diseases, your opinion is essential and the opinion of a sleep specialist may be necessary.

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