If you love to indulge in a feel-good siesta, then we have good news for you: those afternoon moments of slumber might be benefiting your brain health. At least, those are the findings of a study that add to an increasing body of data showing a correlation between afternoon naps and improved mental agility and cognitive function as we age.
Afternoon napping makes for healthier brains
Published in the journal General Psychiatry, the study involved more than 1,500 elderly subjects, all self-reported afternoon nappers — meaning that they tend to take after-lunch naps lasting longer than five minutes and no more than two hours. More than 600 non-nappers of the same age were also recruited.
“In this study, three major findings were presented,” the researchers note in the paper. “First, the elderly individuals who took afternoon naps showed significantly higher cognitive performance compared with those who did not nap. Second, higher levels of TG [triglycerides] were found in napping elderly individuals. Finally, afternoon napping was strongly associated with orientation, language function, and memory.”
It is important to note that each subject group reported an average of 6.5 hours of sleep per night, meaning that the daytime nappers were complementing their nighttime sleep rather than compensating for overnight sleep disruptions.
Make sure you keep them under two hours
The researchers also noted that not all daytime naps are beneficial. Particularly, naps longer than two hours can actually hurt your cognitive function, so make sure to set an alarm!
Source study: General Psychiatry — Relationship between afternoon napping and cognitive function in the aging Chinese population