“Our findings suggest that short naps of up to 30 minutes during the day may be part of the puzzle that may help us maintain brain health as we age,” said co-author Victoria Garfield, a genetic epidemiologist at University College London.
A midday nap can reduce brain life by up to 6.5 years
The findings are based on an extensive study of 35,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69.
In addition to self-reported data on how often they napped, the researchers also analyzed DNA samples and brain imaging to measure people’s lifetime genetic disposition to regular naps.
“By looking at which genes are made at birth, our method avoids confounding factors that occur throughout life and can influence the relationship between napping and health,” Victoria Garfield explains.
The results clearly showed that people who, to a greater degree than others, tend to take naps, have a larger brain size overall.
Compared to people who don’t usually nap, those who nap regularly in the middle of the day could have younger brains 2.6 to 6.5 years younger, on average.
According to the researchers behind the study, this may be due primarily to the fact that napping gives us the opportunity to catch up on important sleep—a problem that often occurs on the other side of the 60-year mark.
Other research has already proven how incredibly important sleep is to protect the brain from accelerated aging.
But this study is the first of its kind to try to uncover the relationship between daytime napping and cognitive changes in the brain.
The researchers hope that their findings about the health benefits associated with short naps in the middle of the day can reduce the stigma they say still exists about napping in a performance-oriented social climate.
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