Scientists have discovered that age does play a role in the quantity of time an individual sleeps. According to a recent paper published in Nature Communications, it shows that people sleep less in middle age (33 to 53) than those in early and late adulthood who sleep the most.

The researchers reveal their findings are consistent across the entire world population. 

“Previous studies have found associations between age and sleep duration, but ours is the first large study to identify these three distinct phases across the life course. We found that across the globe, people sleep less during mid-adulthood, but average sleep duration varies between regions and between countries,” says Professor H.J. Spiers, co-author of the study.

The research team arrived at this conclusion after looking at the sleep durations of 730,187 participants spread across 63 countries. They studied how their sleep patterns change throughout their lifespan and how they vary among countries. All the participants were gathered and asked to play the Sea Hero Quest project mobile video game (a citizen science venture made for neuroscience research. It’s a game specially designed to assist Alzheimer’s research by analyzing differences in spatial navigational abilities. About 4 million people globally have played the Sea Hero Quest mobile game, helping in gathering relevant data for several studies, including this study).

 The researchers explained the purpose of the game upon opening the app before they were allowed to begin playing. 

To assist in the neuroscience research, the participants supplied their demographic data including reports on their average sleep duration pattern. They ruled out participants who reported having a sleep duration above 10 hours or below 5 hours as well as participants above the age of 70.

By the end of the study, the researchers from the University of College London found that across the study participants touching every part of the world, people slept an average of 7.01 hours with women found to be sleeping 7.5 minutes more than men on average.

On top of that, they found that participants in their early adulthood (who were 19 and above) slept the most until they attained age 35 where a sharp decline in sleep was observed. The decline was found to slow down as they approach 50 years where it plateaus and rises again. 

Firstly, they link the decline in sleep in mid-life to the demands of childcare and working life. Likewise, the increased sleep reported after 53 years to a decrease in responsibilities of raising children and a lessening of other factors causing the lower sleep in mid-life.

Based on geographic location, people who disclosed sleeping the most resided in Eastern European countries including Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania, with all reporting 20-40 minutes of extra sleep every night.

Meanwhile, those with the least amount of sleep lived in South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. They also found that people living in the UK reported sleeping a bit less than average. Overall, those in countries nearer to the equator were discovered to tend to sleep a little less.

In their final analysis, participants’ sleep duration did not affect their navigational ability, except for older adults between the ages of 54 – 70 years whose adequate sleep hours are 7 hours. Still, they caution this may have been due to other health conditions among the older participants. 

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