POST 50
06/17/2014 01:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2014

Plenty Of Restful, Restorative Sleep Linked To Significantly Better Cognition

Jose Luis Pelaez via Getty Images

If you've been tossing and turning more and more as you age but keep writing it off as a normal part of aging, think again. Both quality and quantity matter when it comes to sleep among post 50s.

A University of Oregon-led study published in the Journal of Clinical and Sleep Medicine says there's an optimal sleep range for older adults which can help improve your cognition.

Researchers looked at long-term data collected from around 30,000 adults over age 50 in six nations and found that six to nine hours per night is the ideal amount of sleep for older adults in order to maintain the highest cognitive abilities. People who received fewer than six hours or more than nine hours performed significantly worse on a battery of cognitive tests than people who slept in the intermediate range. Cognitive tests measured memory, recall, and verbal fluency.

In all nations, including China, India, Ghana, South Africa, Mexico, and the Russian Federation, men reported higher sleep quality than women. Meanwhile, in all but two nations, women overall reported higher sleep duration.

"Sleep is something that is important but often undervalued in our society...From doing this research and being familiar with the literature, an emphasis on sleep issues by the media in recent years is warranted," University of Oregon researcher Josh Snodgrass said in a release. "Every single piece of evidence that people look at now as they are investigating sleep and different health associations is all showing that sleep really, really, really matters. We're just now scratching the surface on what patterns of sleep normally are, and also what are these associations between sleep and health issues."

Researchers say the findings suggest that improving sleep quality and duration in older adults could help lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline.

Several studies have shown the health risks of too little sleep among older adults. Surveys have shown that prescription sleep aids are most commonly used among both women and older people. Late last year a study found that people who don't get enough restorative sleep have brain imaging patterns similar to those with Alzheimer's. Another study found that sleep deprivation causes lowered learning ability and memory problems, which could contribute to dementias further along the road.

Just another reminder that sleep shouldn't be taken lightly.

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