The Southern Newsroom
| July 31, 2022
An optimal quantity and quality of sleep allows us to have more energy and well-being. (Photo: Reproduction)
Sleep is an important part of maintaining normal brain function. The brain reorganizes and recharges during sleep. But after all, how much sleep does the brain need to function properly in the long term?
A study published in the scientific journal Nature Aging showed that insufficient and excessive sleep contribute to a deterioration in cognitive performance. The research analyzed data from 500,000 middle-aged to elderly adults who were part of the UK BioBank (British biomedical database).
The main finding was that seven hours of sleep per night was optimal, more or less than that providing less benefit for cognition and mental health. Individuals also need seven hours of sleep consistently, with little fluctuation in duration.
Research also identified a relationship between sleep duration, cognition, and mental health that was mediated by genetics and brain structure.
Decades of poor sleep can potentially lead to cognitive decline. A bad night’s sleep also affects people’s moods and behavior, whether babies or the elderly. Many feel like their mind is foggy and it is very difficult for them to maintain their usual performance in school, college or work. There are also difficulties with concentration and memory.
The brain regions most affected by sleep deprivation are the hippocampus, known for its role in learning and memory, and areas of the frontal cortex, involved in top-down control of emotions.
Sleep regularity appears to be linked to the brain’s “default mode network,” which involves regions that are active when we’re awake but not engaged in a specific task, such as resting while our mind wanders.
This network includes areas important for cognitive function, such as the posterior cingulate cortex (which is deactivated during cognitive tasks), the parietal lobes (which process sensory information), and the frontal cortex (which is involved in planning and complex cognition).
In addition to eliminating toxic waste byproducts and boosting our immune system, sleep is also essential for “memory consolidation,” during which new memory segments based on our experiences are transferred into the long-term memory.
While seven hours of sleep is ideal for protecting against dementia, the study suggests that getting enough sleep may also help alleviate dementia symptoms by protecting memory.
This highlights the importance of monitoring sleep duration in elderly patients with psychiatric disorders and dementia to improve their cognitive function, mental health and well-being.
One way to improve sleep is to ensure that the room temperature and ventilation are good – the room should be cool and airy. Also avoid drinking too much alcohol and watching thrillers or other stimulating content before bed.
Technological solutions such as apps or wearable devices (that you can wear) can also be beneficial for mental health, as well as for monitoring sleep and ensuring sleep duration consistency.