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Sharper minds at middle age are all thanks to good sleep

22-01-2015

Sharper minds at middle age are all thanks to good sleep

We are set to live longer than any generation before us (no matter how old you are, this is true). So we want to ensure that our longer lives are better lives. One of the best things you can do if you want to be as happy and healthy later on in life as possible is to sleep well. Good old shuteye has been shown to be one of the best ways of staying in tip top shape.

In fact, a new study that has just been published has found that when people in their 50s and 60s got between six and nine hours sleep they were able to perform better cognitively than their peers who were getting more than nine or less than six. 

The study was conducted by The University of Oregon and has just been published in the respected Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. It built on work done in other studies but had a far larger pool of participants which means that its results are more rock solid. The Oregon study looked a over 30,000 people from six developed nations.

The lead author Theresa E. Gildner explains that “We wanted to look at aging, particularly dementia and cognitive decline as people get older, and the importance of sleep. Our results provide compelling evidence that sleep matters a lot.  In all six countries, which are very different culturally, economically, and environmentally — despite all these differences — you see similar patterns emerging.”

The study used data that was coming in from China, Ghana, India, Mexico, the Russian Federation, and South Africa that has been compiled as part of a long term global project on sleep.

Amongst the many findings available one of the most important was that individuals sleeping less than six hours and more than nine hours had significantly lower cognitive scores compared to those in the intermediate group. These findings fit in with a range of other studies that have looked at general cognition and sleep, providing a comprehensive picture for those in their middle and later years.

It has long been surmised that sleep aids mental acuity, not just in the short term but over time. In a study that trained mice in a new task they found that the mice who were sleep deprived made less neural connections at night than the mice that were sleeping well. In other words, as we sleep our brain makes new connections that allow us to think in new and improved ways.

Another recent finding that gives us an insight into how sleep may help our brains in the long term is that the during sleep the brain is cleansed of all the dangerous toxins that build up during the day. Without good sleep these do not get cleaned away and the brain is damaged. In other words, not only does sleep help you make new connections but it also helps protect our brain from damage.

The message is clear, if you want to stay sharp into your 50s and 60s you need to get enough sleep.
 


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