Power naps during the daytime have been regarded as a distraction toward a good night’s sleep; however, a recent study has something else to reveal! A study has outlined that power napping comes with various benefits for health and the brain.
A recently conducted study has outlined that regular naps are good for the long-term health of the human brain, and habitual napping could assist in making the brain bigger for longer and also boost overall health.
The reports by Future BBC revealed that the study was published in 2023 by experts at University College London (UCL) and the University of the Republic in Uruguay. While examining the report, approximately 35,000 people (aged between 40 and 69) participated in the study by UK Biobank – a biomedical database and research resource.
The reports mentioned that they examined bits of DNA that were already known to be linked with people who take naps regularly. The study revealed that the brains of the regular nappers were larger by 15 cubic cm, as compared to the people who ignore daytime naps.
The benefits of the same were addressed by a senior research fellow at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL – Victoria Garfield, who stated that a longer brain could result in a longer life of the brain.
Garfield, who is also the lead author of the study, can be quoted saying, “The big finding was that daytime napping is, quite robustly, causally linked to having a larger brain volume.”
She further said, “People who have a smaller brain volume are more likely to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, or a diagnosis of sleep apnea… many have cardiovascular disease. We also see substantial shrinkage of the brain in (people with) Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia,” according to the reports by BBC Future.
“Anything you can do to preserve your brain size for as long as possible is a good thing. It’s a really positive message that having a nap could help the brain,” Garfield added.
While emphasizing the fact that why the study was conducted between that specific age group, Garfield stated, “We tried to focus on that midlife point when people start to get diseases and conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure,” as per BBC Future.
How long are naps necessary for proper and improved functioning of the human brain?
The research has outlined that the mental performance of a person can be significantly improved with the help of short naps lasting for five to fifteen minutes. Not only for adults; the reports have suggested that napping is crucial for cognitive development in babies.
Benefits offered by regular power naps!
The experts have mentioned that napping can provide various benefits, including long-term and short-term. The study author, Garfield, stressed that people who take regular naps enjoy long-term benefits. She said, “It has to be cumulative.”
Meanwhile, short-term health benefits are achieved with short naps. Research suggests that napping for five to fifteen minutes could improve the performance of the brain. It is noteworthy that mental stimulus could last approximately up to three hours – after waking up.
What do other researchers have to say?
A professor of psychology and a sleep expert at the University of Loughborough in the UK – Kevin Morgan, stated, “Napping is huge in sports science at the moment. Anything that will improve an athlete’s performance by a tiny amount, known as incremental gains, is seized upon.”
Morgan, who co-authored the study, also added, “Coaches want to bottle napping and give it to their athletes. They want to treat it as a sort of dietary supplement.”
Elaborating on the suitable time for sleeping, Morgan mentioned that the best time for napping is between 1 pm and 4 pm as it assists in enhancing physical and cognitive performance and mood. “You consolidate memories, for sure. Your reaction times might improve and there may be some improvement in terms of coordinated performance,” he outlined.
Napping a part of daily routine – a good routine?
During the research, the experts mentioned that an individual must not compromise with a good night’s sleep. The part was elaborated on by Colin Espie, a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford, who mentioned, “Napping is usually a sign that you’re not getting sufficient sleep.”
Espie further emphasized that a person who is opting to sleep during the daytime must think about the possible consequences related to night sleep. “The main thing we should be trying to do is to protect night-time sleep. We can’t just graze on sleep like some animals do,” the expert explained.
“Sleep is nature’s medicine. We’re highly evolved and we need a lot of brain power. That’s why we need a lot of sleep at night,” said Espie, as per BBC.
However, Morgan mentioned that daytime naps are essential for people who fail to get a good night’s sleep. He said, “Daytime sleep will probably benefit from a period of disciplined sleep during the day.”
Furthermore, Morgan mentioned, “Napping is a bit like treating sleep as an on-demand resource, and for the people who can nap, it works. But that doesn’t mean we should all nap. That would be like saying that it’s beneficial to write with your left hand.”