Do you feel guilty when you indulge in an afternoon nap? If you’re an older adult, give yourself permission to grab those zzz’s. They’re important. Regular siestas not only give your body a break, they boost your brain’s abilities, just as they do for young children. That’s what a team of scientists discovered when they looked at the napping habits of over 2,200 Chinese volunteers, all 60 years old or older.
People in the study were divided into two groups — those who took naps on a regular basis and those who went through their days without one. Naps ranged in length from between five minutes to two hours. Participants' memory, language and other cognitive abilities were measured using the Mini-Mental State Examination and a Chinese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.
Nappers did better on every kind of mental test compared to people who stayed awake all day. “This study found that a proper nap is beneficial for cognitive function, so we encourage the elderly to take a nap,” the study’s lead author, Cai Han, a geriatric psychiatrist in the Fourth People’s Hospital of Wuhu in China, said in a statement.
Napping may even do more than help keep you sharp. Too little sleep is associated with a buildup of the proteins connected to Alzheimer’s disease.
Napping may even do more than keep you sharp. Other studies have shown that too little sleep is associated with a buildup of proteins connected to Alzheimer’s, even in younger adults. And sleep isn’t just good for your brain; it’s also good for your heart.
The study is published in General Psychiatry.