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Can A Nap Boost Your Brain Health?

If you’re feeling just a little bit lazy, because you like to take an afternoon nap. Don’t worry about it. Because, new research suggests that you’re actually doing something that’s very good for your health. Especially, your brain health. However, the length of you nap does play a role in just how healthy it is.

While brain boosting benefits are seen with naps ranging from between 30 and 90 minutes for older adults, naps that last longer than 90 minutes my actually cause cognitive problems. Including the ability to think and form new memories according to new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.1

Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center says, “I consider napping to be a good thing, but it needs to be taken in the context of the person and his or her own sleep cycles and body, for older people, as the study showed, longer naps tend to interfere with cognition”.

Napping For Better Brain Health

During the study data was collected from 2,974 people in China over the age of 65. Close to 60% of the study participants reported to researchers that they nap after lunch for approximately an hour. 

What researchers discovered was that those who napped for between 30 and 90 minutes had better word recall a sign associated with good memory when compared to those who napped 90 minutes or longer. 

Those whose naps lasted between 30 and 90 minutes were also better at drawing figures, another sign of better cognitive function. 

One possible explanation as to why those who took longer naps had worse cognition is that taking longer naps during the day may be a sign of poor sleep quality at night, according to Gamaldo. “In the study, naps longer than 90 minutes could have been called ‘a second sleep.’” This poor-quality nighttime sleep – the kind that requires extra-long napping during the day – can lead to cognitive problems, she adds.

Problems Associated With Longer Naps 

When a person takes longer naps it can pose a few other problems according to Dr. Gamaldo. These include:

  1. Temporary grogginess: When someone takes a longer nap it may make them feel groggy for a awhile after they wake up. “Because they are sleeping longer, they may wake up from a deeper stage of sleep, which occurs later in the cycle, and feel fuzzy headed,” Dr. Gamaldo says.  
  2. Inability to sleep at night: According to Dr. Gamaldo, patients who take long daytime naps often have trouble sleeping at night. She says, “you might want to think about limiting your napping if you’re having problems with insomnia, or it’s taking you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at bedtime.” 

Balance Is Key

The overall consensus is that sleeping too much or too little may lead to poor health and a shorter lifespan. Dr. Gamaldo says, “people need to get the right quantity and quality of rest”.
 

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References:

1. Li, Junxin et al. "Afternoon Napping And Cognition In Chinese Older Adults: Findings From The China Health And Retirement Longitudinal Study Baseline Assessment." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 65.2 (2016): 373-380.

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