August 19, 2022

Data from a study being conducted at Western University in London, Ont., suggests that sleeping too much is just as detrimental as not getting enough sleep.

According to neuroscientist Adrian Owen, getting less or more than the suggested seven to eight hours of sleep a night may cause significant repercussions to the function of the brain. Owen’s study, which launched in June 2017, involved more than 40,000 individuals from around the world.

The lead author of the study concluded that the major factor is consistency. Conor Wild, a research associate of the university said, “So if you’re sleeping 11 hours every single day over a month, that could have an effect on your brain much like sleeping too little every day for a month.”

Participants in the study were to fill out an exhaustive questionnaire before moving on to theoretical online tests.

“These are tests we’ve used for decades to understand specific functions in the brain and we’ve adapted them to turn them into little games to play on your iPad, phone, or your PC and that gave us information about how their brains were functioning,” said Wild.

Wild did a radio interview with London Live on 980 CFPL, where he added, “A lot of people were sleeping four hours a night on average, and that had an effect of being 10 years older in terms of their performance on some of these tests.”

Wild shared that he and his researchers were surprised when participants reported less sleep than the recommendation. Approximately half of the 40,000 participants were only getting 6.3 hours per night.

 The study still left questions unanswered. Wild stated that not one size fits all and the results may vary throughout individuals and their lifestyles.

“Maybe if you do this a lot or it’s part of your occupation, maybe it doesn’t have an effect,” he said.

“What specifically happens in different regions of our brains when we sleep or don’t sleep? How much sleep is ‘enough’? Is there a long-term effect on brain health as well as a short-term effect? We all know you shouldn’t drive if you’re too tired — but should you decide to get married, buy a car or design a bridge if you’ve been up half the night? And if there is an impact, is it the same across all ages and jobs or is it different for seniors, young moms, students, shift-workers, equipment operators?”

The data that culminated in Owen’s study found that verbal abilities and reasoning were explosively impacted. Sleep deprivation is dangerous, it can alter our minds so much that our ability to drive is terminated just as it is with alcohol. It also robs us of productivity, just as too much sleep robs us of our time.

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