Study Shows That 7 Hours Of Sleep Is Best For Middle-Aged And Older Adults

How much sleep is right for you? Well, to a degree it’s subjective; one person might need more than the next. But a new study by Nature Aging found that people between the ages of 38 to 73 on average need seven hours of sleep for optimal mental performance. 

In the study, scientists examined data on almost 500,000 adults. The participants were asked about their sleep habits and mental health and completed a series of tests to assess brain function. Around 40,000 participants even had brain scans and lab tests. The study showed that sleeping longer or shorter than seven hours per night led to a reduced ability to pay attention, solve problems, learn new things, process information and generally make decisions. 

In short, if you’re between 38 and 73 years old, the data suggests that on average seven hours sleep per night is ideal to maximize brain function and mental health, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

So why is seven hours optimal?

Brain scans indicated that those who got seven hours of sleep had fewer structural changes of the brain in the areas associated with cognitive processing and memory. People who slept either more or less than this amount, or whose sleeping pattern varied significantly, suffered reduced cognitive function and mental health.

Sleep is important at all stages of life, and is an especially important aspect to focus on when seeking to improve your overall metabolic health. But as we age, sleep becomes perhaps even more important. Previous research found that older individuals who suffered from sleep issues were at increased risk of cognitive impairment, and other studies determined that poor quality sleep left older adults more prone to cognitive decline and dementia.

What’s troubling is that more than one in three adults gets less than seven hours of sleep per night, increasing not only their risk of cognitive decline but also chronic health issues like heart disease, obesity, asthma and diabetes. In a 2018 study, researchers found a compelling connection between lack of sleep and insulin resistance, which put subjects at greater risk for glucose intolerance and diabetes. A 2010 report concluded that people who regularly snoozed between 5 to 6 hours each night were at a  28% increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

We live in a world where quotes like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” are commonplace, making us feel like unless we’re burning the midnight oil and awake before the crows caw, then we’re not working hard enough. 

The reality is that without adequate rest you are not maximizing your physical and mental potential. Sleep is one of the most important elements of metabolic health, and as more studies like these appear, the greater chance we have of people prioritizing rest and recovery. After all, we all want to function at our best, especially as we age, and an extra bit of shuteye might just be the key.

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