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The debate about how much sleep you really need may be over

How much shut-eye do you think you should get every night? Researchers say they found the answer for people in middle age and older. Viv Williams share that info in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."

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Researchers say they now know the ideal amount of sleep for many adults (Dreamstime)
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — How much sleep do you need in middle or old age to be at your best? A new study shows that seven hours is the magic amount. And if you get too little or too much sleep, you may increase your chances of cognitive and mental health decline.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and colleagues from Fudan University in China say sleep keeps your brain healthy by clearing out waste products. But as people age, sleep patterns often get disrupted. And this may contribute to cognitive decline and psychiatric disorders.

The scientists analyzed data from nearly 500,000 adults aged 38-73. They found that both insufficient and excessive amounts of sleep were associated with impaired thinking skills, such as problem solving and paying attention. And they also were associated with more symptoms of anxiety and depression.

But seven hours a night kept people sharper, promoted good mental health and increased feelings of well-being.

“Getting a good night’s sleep is important at all stages of life, but particularly as we age," says Dr. Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. "Finding ways to improve sleep for older people could be crucial to helping them maintain good mental health and wellbeing and avoiding cognitive decline, particularly for patients with psychiatric disorders and dementias.”

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The study is published in the journal Nature Aging.

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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