Researchers at University College London in the UK say that finding time for a nap every day is good for our brains and helps keep them fuller for longer.
The team showed that the brains of individuals who sleep regularly are 15 cc larger – the equivalent of delaying aging by between three and six years.
However, scientists recommend keeping naps to less than half an hour a day.
Experts say daytime sleepiness can be difficult in many jobs, with a work culture that often frowns on the practice.
“We suggest that everyone gets some benefit from napping,” says psychologist Victoria Garfield. The results were described as “new and very exciting”.
Napping is crucial to children’s development, but it becomes less common as we get older — and it’s hugely popular after retirement. Almost a quarter of people over the age of 65 report taking naps during the day.
Garfield says starting the habit of getting a few minutes of sleep is “very easy” compared to other health measures like weight loss and exercise, which are “difficult for a lot of people.”
The brain naturally shrinks with age. Now, scientists want to understand whether napping can help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s. This is a topic that still needs further research.
General brain health is important to protect us from dementia. This condition, which is characterized by a failure of memory and logical thinking, is associated with disturbed sleep.
Researchers suggest that a poor night’s rest damages the brain over time, causing inflammation and affecting connections between nerve cells.
“Thus, regular naps can protect against neurodegeneration and compensate for lack of sleep,” assesses researcher Valentina Paz.
However, said dr. Garfield says she isn’t willing to find a comfortable place to nap at work and would rather invest in other ways to take care of her brain.
“Honestly, I’d rather spend 30 minutes exercising than napping. But I’d probably advise my mom to do that. [tire as sonecas]. “
How do you find the answer?
Study naps can be quite a challenge.
Napping can improve your health, but the opposite is also true – that is, not taking care of your health can make you so tired that you need to rest longer.
Hence, the researchers decided to test a different technique to prove that napping can be beneficial.
They used a giant natural experiment based on the DNA – the genetic code – that we are born with. Previous studies have identified 97 stretches of the genome that make us more likely to fall asleep or stay up all day.
So, the team took data from 35,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 who participated in the UK Biobank project and simply compared the genes of “sleepers” and “awake.”
The results, published in the journal Sleep Health, showed a difference of 15 cubic centimeters in brain volume between the groups — which corresponds to a range of 2.6 to 6.5 years of age. The average total gray matter volume was approximately 1400 cc in the study.
Professor Tara Spears-Jones of the University of Edinburgh and chair of the British Neuroscience Society acknowledged.
She said the study provides “interesting” results by showing a “small but significant increase in brain volume” and “adds data suggesting the importance of sleep for brain health.”
The researchers emphasized that the work did not assess getting a full day’s sleep, but focused on shorter 30-minute sessions.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”