November 27, 2022

How long do you have to sleep? A question with many answers

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(CNN Spanish) — How many hours to sleep is the mother of all sleep questions. It seems that each new piece of research that is published adds a new nuance, a hitherto unknown assessment that must be added to an increasingly long list of recommendations and warnings.

We suggest that you review here what science has said in recent years, taking into account two caveats: all studies have limitations and the answer may vary for each person, according to experts.

Age, a key factor to consider

First thing’s first: the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that distinguish the number of hours needed according to age groups. These are their suggestions:

7, is it the magic number?

The ideal night’s rest for people in middle and old age is around seven hours, according to a study published in May 2022, which warns about the risks of sleeping less but also sleeping more than necessary.

The researchers found that seven hours of sleep is linked to better mental health, with people experiencing more symptoms of anxiety and depression and worse overall well-being if they report sleeping for longer or shorter periods. Insufficient or excessive sleep is also associated with a reduced ability to pay attention, remember and learn new things, solve problems and make decisions.

Links between the amount of sleep and heart health have also been studied. In fact, this year the American Heart Association added sleep duration to its cardiovascular health checklist, which includes categories like diet, exercise, and nicotine exposure, among others.

If you suffer from insomnia, these tips could help you a lot 2:46

If you think 5 hours is enough, check out these results

There are people who sleep five hours, or even less, and feel that they do not need more. If that is your case: be careful. Research published this October warns that people aged 50 and over who sleep five or fewer hours a night are at higher risk of developing multiple chronic diseases as they age compared to their peers who sleep longer at night.

How much more risk? At 60, the risk was 32% higher, according to the study, and at 70 the figure climbed to 40%.

Diseases for which there was an increased risk included diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, depression, dementia, mental disorders, Parkinson’s and arthritis.

(Unlike other studies, the research didn’t find that those who slept more than nine hours had any health problems, but few people in the study slept that long, and that may have affected the results.)

Specific studies in older adults

Research specifically focused on older adults that was published in 2021 found that short sleep duration, defined in the study as six hours or less, was associated with elevated levels of beta amyloid, which “greatly increases” the risk of dementia.

Amyloid beta protein, or amyloid-β, “is one of the earliest detectable markers in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” study author Joe Winer, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University in California, said at the time. “In Alzheimer’s disease, β-amyloid proteins begin to accumulate throughout the brain, sticking together in plaques,” he explained, noting however that “amyloid plaques are more likely to appear as we age, and many people with accumulated amyloid in the brain are still healthy.

It is not solved with a number

Good sleep does not only depend on the number of hours, but on the quality. How to detect if your sleep is of poor quality? Some signs that the CDC reveals are waking up and not feeling rested even when you’ve had enough sleep, waking up repeatedly at night, or having sleep disorder symptoms like snoring or wheezing.

(Snoring is a separate book: while it can be a sign of a serious disorder like sleep apnea, it’s also true that we all snore at some point in our lives and it can be due to a cold or allergy blocking the nasal passages or even drinking alcohol close to bedtime (you can read more about this specific topic here).

sleep well healthy

To stay healthy, the body needs to go through four stages of sleep multiple times each night. During the first and second stages, the body begins to slow down its rhythms. That sets us up for the third phase: deep, slow-wave sleep, in which the body literally restores itself at the cellular level, repairing the damage of the day’s wear and tear and consolidating memories into long-term storage.

Rapid eye movement sleep, known as REM, is the final stage in which we dream. Studies have shown that a lack of REM sleep can lead to memory deficits and poor cognitive outcomes, as well as heart disease and other chronic conditions. Even to a premature death.

On the other hand, years of research have found that sleep, especially the deepest, most healing sleep, stimulates immune function.

Since each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, most adults need a relatively uninterrupted seven to eight hours of sleep to achieve restful sleep, according to the CDC.

What amount of sleep is ideal to be and feel good? 0:41

How interruptions affect the heart and brain

A particularly important point is that of sleep interruptions. A person goes through multiple sleep cycles made up of non-REM and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. There are three stages of non-REM sleep, and the third is deep sleep, which restores the body both mentally and physically, Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonary critical care and sleep specialist, clinical professor, recently told CNN. associate at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles.

Frequent waking will prevent you from moving into those deeper stages, which can lead to higher blood pressure and increased blood sugar levels, which in turn are associated with diabetes and obesity, he said . These conditions contribute to reduced heart health and increase the risk of developing heart failure, Dasgupta said.

It’s not just heart health. Sleep interruptions in the elderly, which are common, are associated with changes in cognitive function, that is, in the mental ability to learn, think, reason, solve problems, make decisions, remember and pay attention.

With reporting from CNN’s Angela Reyes, Katie Hunt, Jen Christensen, Sandee LaMotte, Megan Marples and Kristen Rogers.



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