Thursday, October 21

Can taking afternoon naps boost your mental abilities?

New research suggests that naps in the middle of the afternoon can help us hone our mental skills. As indicated Healthline, this could be observed in the population of older adults, but it is likely to apply to all ages.

This study offers a new look at the functioning of the brain, and more precisely at the impact that the break or the lack of it in our cognitive abilities, reinforcing the idea that good rest is essential for our health.

The study

The study was published in the journal General Psychiatry, and focused primarily on both physical and psychological health among 2,224 people over 60 years of age who were residents of large urban centers in China. Of these, 1,534 took regular naps, while 680 did not.

In the research, a nap was defined as “any period of 5 consecutive minutes of rest not exceeding 2 hours and after lunch”.

The study found that people who napped had “significantly higher” scores than those who did not, on the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), a standardized test aimed at ruling out or confirming a case of dementia.

This test includes topics that address:

  • Spatial and visual skills
  • Verbal fluency
  • Problem solving ability
  • Capacity of attention
  • Memory

Not all naps are healthy

Participants were asked how many times did they nap in a typical week, but they were not asked for how long these naps lasted, or at what specific times of the day.

Long naps can be an indication that the quality of your night’s sleep is poor. Source: Shutterstock.

According to Katherine Hall, a sleep coach who is part of a guided sleep therapy program, a healthy nap is one that begins between 1 and 3 PM, and lasts between 10 and 30 minutes. She indicates that those that last 60 are still beneficial.

Nevertheless, naps become problematic when they extend to two hours. This is because these naps can suggest the existence of an underlying pathology that motivates the body to have a greater need to rest.

If a person usually has naps that exceed an hour in length, they may be a sign that the amount or the quality of night’s sleep is poor, which would justify the compensation that the body tries to make with prolonged naps.

Definitely, taking a nap every now and then may be healthier than we think. However, it is worth remembering that a nap can never replace the importance of a night’s rest, and that it should not be used for compensatory reasons.

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