A new study shows that taking an hour-long nap in the afternoon may be good for your brain. The study came from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and stated that naps may be linked to improved memory and the ability to think clearly. Participants in the research study included 3,000 adults aged 65 years and older and their sleeping habits, which included napping in the afternoon. Researchers wanted to test if the naps boosted brain function.
Cultural attitudes towards napping depend on the culture. In Western cultures, children and the elderly are expected to nap during the day while in other age groups this would be unacceptable, especially during the work day. Other cultures see napping as necessary, especially if their largest meal of the day is at midday. Besides the mental benefits of napping, it is believed that napping can reduce cardiovascular stress.
Over half of the participants in the brain study napped after their lunches and the duration of their naps lasted anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes total. Afterward, participants went through “mental status tests,” that included simple questions and basic math problems, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Results of the study indicated that those who napped for an hour performed better on the test than those who did not nap at all. These people who napped for the hour “outperformed” those who slept less than or more than an hour. Participants who did not nap at all had decreases in their cognitive skills.
According to USA Today, the older adults who did take naps had a “mental boost” and helped to “improve memory and thinking skills.” Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr. Junxin Li, lead author said, that “these people also experienced the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to cause.”
According to WebMD, the length of the naps determines the benefits to the brain. The 20-minute “power nap” is supposedly good for alertness and motor learning skills. Naps that last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes is good for “decision-making skills.” Napping, according to WebMD is better than drinking a cup of coffee to stay awake mainly because caffeine may decrease memory performance and while a person may fee more awake that person is also prone to making mistakes.
Researchers of the study acknowledged that more research must be done to prove that napping is beneficial for older adults. If a boost to productivity is proven to come from an after lunch nap, it could be something that employers look at bringing into the standard workday to improve employee work.
By Cheryl Werber