We have great news for fans of an afternoon snooze: A new study has just found that enjoying a relaxing nap can boost our memory and overall brain health as we age.
Before immediately dipping into a celebratory post-lunch slumber, let’s take a look at how they came to this conclusion. Research published in the General Psychiatry journal observed more than 2,000 participants over the age of 60. All of the individuals claimed to sleep an average of six and a half hours at night, but more than half (1,534) also said they regularly took afternoon naps.
The study authors had participants complete a test known as the Mini-Mental State Examination. It is often used to assess potential dementia in elderly individuals by observing their memory, calculation skills, spatial orientation, language, and other cognitive abilities.
Results showed that those in the napping group performed much higher than those who went about their day without the extra shut-eye. Study authors claim the nappers showed the most positive effects when it came to orientation, language function, and memory.
There is a catch though: The authors reference a previous study that found the longer the nap, the less likely it is to be beneficial to our brains. Although the participants in this case slept for at least five minutes, but no more than two hours, the sweet spot seems to be hitting closer to a 30 minute nap — which has shown to decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 84 percent. The authors explained that these benefits are likely thanks to the rest helping regulate inflammatory markers that can cause a decrease in cognitive function as we age.
It’s important to note that as nice as these brain-boosting perks may be, the individuals in the napping group also showed signs of higher triglyceride levels in their blood. As we know, this can increase the risk of heart health issues and diabetes. More research needs to be done, but remembering to stay active when not enjoying an afternoon snooze can likely help avoid these issues.
Now go ahead and give yourself a guilt-free rest for half an hour or so — your brain will thank you!