What's the Perfect Amount of Sleep for Middle-Aged Brains?

Sleep, Shakespeare informs us in Macbeth, is a remedy that “relieves the weary labourer and heals hurt minds”. Adding that sleep is "the main course in life's feast, and the most nourishing."

Middle aged man asleep in bed

We are all aware that a good night's sleep is vital for our health, but what's the ideal amount for mid-lifers? The good news is that scientists at the University of Cambridge have found the answer: the perfect dose of sleep is seven hours for people wanting to keep their minds healthy in middle age and beyond.

Any more or any less is linked to poor mental performance, upending current National Health Service advice to get between seven and nine hours. (If you struggle to get seven hours, take a look at 5 Sleep Tips From Olympians.)

The University of Cambridge researchers examined data from nearly half a million British adults, aged between 38 and 73 years, who took part in the UK Biobank project – a study that monitored sleeping patterns, mental health and wellbeing, as well as cognitive performance.

They found that both insufficient and excessive sleep were associated with slower processing speed as well as poorer visual attention, memory and problem-solving skills.

Seven hours was also found to be the sweet spot for good mental health, with people experiencing more anxiety and depression and worse overall wellbeing if they slept for longer or shorter periods of time.


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