Napper’s Delight: Regular Napping Linked to Stronger Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Hitting the snooze button may not be so bad after all, especially for your brain! A study published in General Psychiatry assessed older adults’ cognitive abilities and analyzed their napping habits. Cognitive abilities such as memory and language were assessed. The aim of the study was to extend the positive associations of napping to brain health.

The layout of the study was first formed from 2,214 older adults, with the average age of 70. Participants were pre-screened to confirm that they had no major physical conditions, including nervous system diseases or life-threatening medical diseases, as well as no deafness or blindness. After this, participants were divided into two categories, regular nappers and those who did not nap regularly. The researchers defined naps as a period of sleep taken after lunch lasting between five minutes and two hours. Participants also took a battery of measurements to assess their cognitive abilities such as memory, language, and lipid levels.

Researchers found that in every category tested in the study, nappers scored significantly higher than their non-napping counterparts. The study indicates that a good nap is highly beneficial for maintaining cognitive function and encourages older adults to nap. It is worth noting that there is a distinction between intentional and unintentional nappers; unintentional nappers sleep as a result of excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to disturbed sleep and it is qualitatively different from intentional naps which are taken for pleasure.

The study reaffirms existing literature on the importance of sleep; however, it now points that not only is nightly sleep important, but brief naps in the afternoon can also be beneficial. Although this study points to evidence that napping can be a healthy part of an older adult’s day, this study did not include data from people under 60 years of age, so future research should expand the breadth of this empirical finding by connecting associations between younger generations and napping.


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Cai, Su, Li, Li, et al.  Relationship between afternoon napping and cognitive function in the ageing Chinese population. General Psychiatry (2021) Vol. 34(1): doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2020-100361

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