Who doesn’t love a nap?! Having a quick 20 minute snooze on the best mattress refreshes your energy levels, lifts your mood and improves your performance. If you need to be more convinced that naps are beneficial, a new study conducted by researchers at University College London has found that taking regular naps is good for brain health.
Recently published in the Sleep Health journal, researchers from UCL and University of the Republic In Uruguay looked into the relationship between habitual napping and brain health. As stated by senior author Dr Victoria Garfield, the study was designed to show that “the health benefits of short naps can help to reduce any stigma that still exists around daytime napping.”
With this in mind, Dr Garfield and a team of researchers used a technique called Mendelian randomisation to study snippets of DNA thought to determine people’s likelihood to nap. By analysing this data from over 370,000 people aged 40-69, the researchers compared brain health and cognition in those who are more genetically likely to nap compared to those who didn’t have this genetic variant.
The study found that people who are more predetermined to napping due to their genetics had a larger total brain volume. The research team also estimated that the difference in brain volume between nappers and non-nappers was equivalent to 2.6 - 6.5 years of ageing.
While more research needs to be done to determine how well regular nappers perform on other measures of brain health, this study suggests that “short daytime naps may be a part of the puzzle that could help preserve the health of the brain as we get older,” said Dr Garfield.
But, what does having a large brain volume mean? Having a larger brain volume has been found to be a sign of good brain health and it’s been linked to lower risks of certain diseases, like dementia. In comparison, it’s been found that people with sleep problems like insomnia or who sleep poorly on a regular basis tend to have a lower brain volume.
Regular napping actually has many benefits, from making you feel alert to improving your memory and reaction times. Napping on a daily or weekly basis can also help with your overall sleep, especially if you schedule it at the same time each day. Not only does this help your body adjust to a nap schedule, but it doesn’t interrupt your nighttime sleep and makes it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up.
Alongside these positives to regular naps, it’s still important to keep to the golden rules for napping. That’s right, there is a right or wrong way to have a nap, including getting your timings right and setting the scene for a rested sleep, as we found in how to have the perfect nap. So, if you love having a nap, you could be setting yourself up for better brain health in the future.