Too much sleep may be as harmful as too little

Optimising sleep based on your age is best for mental health

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing study examined 9,000 English people over one month and found that those aged 50-64 who slept more than eight hours a night had poor memory and decision-making abilities similar to those who slept less than six hours per night. The optimal range of sleep for adults in this age range was six to eight hours of sleep per night. Those who regularly slept more than 8 hours per night showed signs of lower cognitive function.

However, for older adults (65 +) the research suggested that it’s the quality of sleep rather than the quantity that matters. While getting too much sleep was shown to have some harmful effects in the older age group, the amount of quality, uninterupted sleep had more positive impact on healthy brain functioning.

‘Sleep is important for good health and mental wellbeing. Optimizing 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,’ Francesco Cappuccio, one of the researchers, said.

Counselling helped this man with chronic sleep problems.

A similar study by the University of Oregon released earlier this year found that 6 to 9 hours of sleep was optimal for people over 50, to ensure the highest level of brain function.

Previous research has shown the importance of the sleep-wake cycle. Professor Russell Foster, a neuroscientist at Oxford, said: ‘We are the supremely arrogant species. We feel we can abandon four billion years of evolution and ignore the fact that we have evolved under a light-dark cycle. What we do as a species is override the clock. And long-term acting against the clock can lead to serious health problems.’

An article on this recent research was published in the Herald Scotland on the 28th of June.

Our page on the importance of sleep for emotional and psychological well-being might also be of interest.

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