In a recent article in the journal Sleep, the sleep patterns of more than 10,000 people between the ages of 35 and 55 were measured over a five-year period. Both quality and the amount of hours of sleep per day were measured against cognitive function.
The results suggested that when people get 6-8 hours of sleep per night, they seem to maintain good cognitive function and age normally.
For those who got more or less than 6 or 8 hours of sleep per night, there was an accelerated decline in cognitive function. The cognitive decline observed with either too little or too much sleep was the equivalent of four to seven years of aging beyond the normal rate.
In Ayurveda, to communicate the protocol for optimal sleep patterns, we ask two very simple questions:
- How would feel if you went to bed at midnight and woke up the next morning at 10am?
- In comparison, if you went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 6am the next morning, would you feel better or worse?
The usual answer I get from people is that they would probably feel groggy and dull that first morning, and much better the second morning. Interestingly, both nights provided the same amount of sleep”10 hours.
In Ayurveda, we evaluate not only how much sleep we need, but also when the optimal time to get it is. This has to do with cycles in natures that keep us balanced and healthy when we follow them. If we disturb these sleep cycles and force the body to adapt to a lifestyle that goes against the grain of nature’s cycles, this is a major stress on every aspect of the body and mind.
While this particular study demonstrated the effects of balanced sleep cycles on cognitive function as we age, Ayurveda holds that disturbed sleep has a negative impact on the whole system.