Child SleepingSleep is not just important for growing children, but adults too. Research from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom investigated how sleep affects cognitive function. The study finds that older adults who sleep six to eight hours per night have better cognitive functioning than their peers. The results are consistent with other studies suggesting that sleeping six to eight hours is the optimum duration, reiterating the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

Data for the study came from the Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). The researchers drew on surveys from adults 50 years and older—3,968 men and 4,821 women. The participants reported on how much and how well they slept over the course of a month, answering questions about difficulties falling and staying asleep, how many hours they slept, and if they woke up feeling tired. The researchers used previous surveys from the ELSA to evaluate cognitive function.

Adults aged 50 to 64 years who slept less than six hours or more than eight hours per night had worse cognitive functioning than their peers. For adults aged 65 to 89 years, only the participants who slept more than eight hours per night scored lower on cognitive function. The adults in the 65 to 89 age bracket did not demonstrate worse cognitive functioning when they slept less than six hours.

The findings suggest that six to eight hours of sleep is the optimal amount for aging adults who want to maintain a sharp mind.

“Optimising sleep at an older age may help to delay the decline in brain function seen with age, or indeed may slow or prevent the rapid decline that leads to dementia” Professor Francesco Cappuccio, one of the study’s authors.

This research is published in the journal PLOS One.

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