Hour-long naps may boost mental ability for older adults
As we age, our cognitive functioning declines; we might have problems remembering names, forget where we left our keys, or have trouble learning new information.
For some older individuals, the decline in cognitive functioning can be more severe, potentially leading to Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
Now, a new study has found that napping for an hour in the afternoon may boost mental abilities.
The study included information from nearly 3,000 adults aged 65 and older. All participants underwent a series of tests that assessed attention, episodic memory, and visuospatial abilities, including mathematical tests, world recall, and figure drawing.
Subjects were also asked how long they napped for after lunch on each day during the past month, and they were categorized into four groups based on their answers.
These categories were non-nappers (0 minutes), short nappers (less than 30 minutes), moderate nappers (30-90 minutes), and extended nappers (more than 90 minutes).
Nearly 60 percent of the people regularly napped after lunch. The duration of these naps ranged from about 30 minutes to more than 90 minutes. Most of the participants slept for about an hour, the study found.
Compared with non-nappers, the researchers found that participants who had a moderate afternoon nap performed better in the cognitive tests.
Moderate nappers also had better cognitive performance than short nappers and extended nappers. On average, reductions in mental abilities of non-nappers, short nappers, and extended nappers were around four to six times greater than those of moderate nappers.
The researchers stress that their study is observational, so they cannot prove that afternoon naps directly benefit cognitive functioning among older adults. Still, Li and colleagues believe that their results warrant further investigation:
“The cross-sectional design and self-reported measures of sleep limited the findings. Longitudinal studies with objective napping measures are needed to further test this hypothesis."