Too much or too little sleep in mid life appears to have a negative impact on cognitive function later in life according to a study conducted by the University College London Medical School Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. The findings in this particular study indicate that men and women who started sleeping more or less than 6 to 8 hours each night experienced a drop in cognitive ability that was equivalent to four to seven years of aging.
Data from more than 5,000 men and women was reviewed in the London study. Groups who had reported changes in their sleep, either less sleep or more sleep than their baselines, were compared to those who had experienced no changes in their sleep patterns. During the sleep study period, 58 percent of men and 50 percent of women had no change in their sleep patterns.
Those participants who did experience adverse changes in their sleep patterns over a five-year period in middle age scored lower than those with no sleep pattern changes on cognitive tests. Among these tests were vocabulary, reasoning and global cognitive status.
Problems Associated with Sleep Deprivation
There is no shortage of information available regarding the negative impact that sleep deprivation has on health; it is a well documented fact that sleep is vital for all human systems to function at their best. With too little sleep, problems with response times, reasoning, concentration, mental and physical health and social functioning are often experienced. In fact, too little sleep can even help lead to an early death.
And just as there are problems associated with too little sleep, there are also problems associated with too much sleep. Too much sleep can cause diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and headaches.
Related Read: Infographic | Why You Need More Sleep
Optimal Amount of Sleep
Researchers found that women who received 7 hours of sleep per night had the highest scores on cognitive tests; those that received 6 hours per night scored 2nd highest. Men experienced a drop in test scores when they slept less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours per night.
Based on the study, it appears that sticking to a healthy sleep pattern of somewhere between 6 and 8 hours per night is vital when it comes to maintaining cognitive acuity. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Teens should get between 8.5 and 9.25, and children between the ages of 5 and 10 should get between 10 and 11 hours. The younger you are, the more sleep you need, with up to 18 hours recommended for newborns.