It's an age-old question. Which is more important, the quality of sleep or the quantity of sleep? The answer to that question may depend on how old you are. The amount of sleep you need is very dependent upon your age.
Quantity, not quality, of sleep may determine how well older people's brains function the next day, researchers report. For youngsters, though, quality may be more important.
Sleep affects young and old brains differently, the study shows, and the findings may ultimately lead to new ways to offset agerelated cognitive decline. The link between sleep and learning has been well- established, comments Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley. "If s critical to sleep before learning. Sleep almost prepares the brain like a dry sponge to soak up new information."
Contrary to common belief, older adults don't sleep substantially less than younger adults. From age 35 to 85, people actually lose only about an hour of nightly sleep on average, psychologist and study coauthor Sean Drummond of the University of California, San Diego said. Rather, what changes is sleep efficiency - a measure of the portion of time spent tossing, turning or lying awake in bed. "The biggest, most common, most robust change is that we spend more time awake in the middle of the night," Drummond said.
In the new study, 33 adults with a mean age of 67 and 29 adults with a mean age of 27 slept in a lab while Drummond and colleagues measured the duration and quality of their sleep. The next day, the researchers tested participants' brain activity and performance on a learning and memory task. Older adults who had slept for more total time the previous night were able to more accurately remember a list of random nouns than older adults who had slept fewer hours. Whaf s more, functional MRI experiments showed that regions of the brain important for learning and memory had higher activation in older adults who had slept more hours. Sleep quality seemed to have no effect on performance, Drummond said. "For older adults, the absolute minutes of sleep they got last night has a significant influence on performance today." In younger folks, on the other hand, the quality of sleep was critical, Drummond found. Young adults who slept with limited interruption performed better and had higher brain activity in certain regions than those who woke up frequently during the night. "Sleep last night does impact performance and brain function today, and it does so differently depending on whether you're in your mid-20s versus your mid60s," he said. "Older adults need to get a certain amount of sleep. Young adults need to get that sleep in a consolidated chunk." The good news, Drummond said, is that disrupted sleep among the elderly is not harmful in itself. Rather, it's the actual total minutes of sleep that need to be watched. Tuning sleep quantity may help prevent cognitive decline with age, he said.Find this article interesting? You may also want to read...Age Well With Mind PowerFifty and Fabulous