Taking Hour-long Nap May Promote Brain Function in Older Adults

Are you a senior citizen and a daytime napper as well? If so, make sure you take only an hour-long nap as a new study has found that napping for an hour in the afternoon may boost mental abilities.

The study conducted among the older Chinese men by a team of international researchers concentrated mainly on post-lunchtime napping and its impact on the health of elderly people.

A number of studies so far have assessed the impact of afternoon napping on physical and mental health of people. Some studies suggest in favor of shorter daytime nap linking it to improved mood and alertness, while others suggest against taking nap for longer periods as it could increase the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes.

The latest study came up with fresh evidence that suggest a potential link between an hour-long nap and improved mental health. The study findings show that taking an hour-long nap during the day may boost memories in older adults, improve their decision making capabilities, and their ability to remember things.

To assess the impact of afternoon nap on older men’s mental health, lead researcher Junxin Li from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues surveyed a total of 2,974 elderly Chinese people aged 65 and older. The investigators asked these men about their daytime and nighttime sleep habits and collected data of their cognitive function.

The Chinese adults in the study were asked to memorize and recall words, and copy drawings of simple geometric figures.

A close to 60 percent of the participants said they took a post-lunch afternoon nap, and most of them slept for about an hour. The nap duration for those who slept after lunchtime ranged from nearly 30 minutes to more than 90 minutes.

The researchers found that daytime nappers who took an hour-long nap after lunch showed overall better cognition than those who either did not take a nap or who napped for longer than 90 minutes or shorter than 30 minutes.

The an hour-long nap nap post lunchtime helped men perform better on brain tests that included basic math problems as well as words recall and simple questions about the date and season of the year.

Conversely, the study subjects who took short naps or very long naps experienced declines in their mental abilities that were up to six times greater than those who napped for an hour in the afternoon.

“Between-group comparisons showed that moderate nappers had better overall cognition than nonnappers or extended nappers,” the researchers wrote.

The study, entitled “Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings From the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) Baseline Assessment” is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.