06/27/2014 12:10 pm ET Updated Jun 27, 2014

Not Getting Enough Quality Sleep Can Spell Trouble As You Age

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We all know that fuzzy feeling you get when you have a sleepless night -- where it's harder to concentrate, get through your day, and keep your eyes open. Now a new study says the effects of getting the right amount of good quality sleep can actually spell trouble for older adults.

Researchers at the University of Warwick studied the sleep habits of nearly 4,000 men and over 4,800 women as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and discovered quality and quantity matter more at different stages. For adults ages 50-64, getting the right amount of sleep was key in avoiding lowered brain function. Adults who slept more or less than the optimal range of six to eight hours showed signs of lower cognitive function.

But in adults 65 and older, it's quality not quantity that matters. While getting too much sleep was shown to have harmful effects in this age group, the amount of restful, restorative sleep had more of an impact on brain function.

"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," researcher Francesco Cappuccio said in a press release.

A similar study released earlier this month by the University of Oregon found six to nine hours of sleep are optimal for post 50s to ensure the highest cognition.

The National Sleep Foundation says there's simply no "magic number" for everyone but suggests the best range on average is anywhere from seven to eight hours, depending on age and health. But as always, pay attention to your needs and try to chart how much sleep keeps you feeling your best.

Sweet dreams.



Improving Your Sleep