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Longevity Briefs: Less than 6 hours sleep a night found to double risk of cognitive impairment

Posted on 28 September 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Insomnia is defined as the inability to fall asleep or to maintain sleep throughout the night. It is a relatively common problem, with the vast majority of adults experiencing short-term insomnia at some point in their life. However, if the lack of sleep is severe enough to contribute to serious health problems it is a serious concern. If difficulty sleeping persists for three months, with an occurrence of three times per week, it is deemed chronic insomnia. Some studies have shown that 1 in every 10 adults suffer from insomnia.

What did the researchers do: A team of researchers based at Penn state College of Medicine investigated the effects that sleeping less than 6 hours a night had on cognitive impairment. The study recruited 1,741 adult participants who underwent a series of examinations including physical and cognitive evaluations, as well as a questionnaire to identify any factors which may affect sleep, before sleeping a single night in a measured environment. How long the participant slept for was measured during this night’s sleep.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The study showed that adults who reported insomnia and slept less than 6 hours were twice as likely to suffer from greater cognitive impairment compared to good sleepers. They also found that cognitive impairment due to lack of sleep was exacerbated in participants with cardiometabolic conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

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