Brain Health and Mood

Study Shows Too Much Sleep Bad for Your Brain

Dog and napping catHow much sleep do I (meaning you) need? This is one of the most common questions asked healthcare providers are asked. What many want to know is, how much sleep is optimal for one to be healthy of body and mind? A recent study shows that getting too much sleep may be as bad as too little.

But how much sleep is too little and, conversely, how much is too much?

8 Hours of Sleep: A Myth?

Well, sleep is as individual as you or me. And, certain people have been found to be able to function at their best with less sleep than most of us. These people (lucky bastards!) are said to have a certain gene dubbed DEC2 that reduces the need for sleep.

Not long ago, an article was published about the myth of the 8-hour sleep, which questioned the need for sleeping eight hours a night. We’ve all heard it; we need about 8 hours sleep per night for overall health and wellbeing.

For many of us, this is not realistic. For one, we don’t have an on-off switch for our natural sleep clock. Secondly, our world is ever busy, and schedules differ. For some of us, such a thing as “sleep at night” doesn’t quite exist. Some even think it’s a luxury.

Moreover, many of us do not even sleep a straight eight hours even when we can. Personally, I find that I wake up every couple or so hours. Plus, some of us have had to learn to live on what is called the power nap, which has been found to be beneficial. Some famous achievers including Thomas Edison were ardent power nappers.

One study even showed that sleep boosts brain power differently in men and women. Our lifestyles, occupation, emotional state and other variables can also impact our sleep patterns. Back to the study.

The Study

Previously, studies optimal amount of sleep mainly centered around what may be considered inadequate amounts. That is, they looked at effects of too little sleep. However, according to a new research from Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute, too much sleep may just be as bad as too little.

In what is said to be the world’s largest sleep study thus far, the researchers looked at data from 10,000 participants. They were interested in seeing from a large sample of people from around the world, how everyday sleep patterns related to brain function.

The participants completed a comprehensive online profile, including details about their sleep patterns, medications, history of depression or anxiety, age, and education level. They are asked to complete an online cognitive assessment on waking up.

The researchers found that the long held-view of requiring 7-8 hours of sleep each night may hold true. Both shorter and longer duration negatively impacted performance.

We still hold that optimal sleep is largely an individual thing. Remember the guys and gals with DEC2 gene we mentioned earlier who need less sleep? This may be one of the things the study was not able to uncover. And quality beats quantity, even when it comes to sleep.

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