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Study: Hour-Long Nap May Improve Brain Function in Seniors

A daily hour-long nap may improve brain function in seniors, according to a recent study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Led by Junxin Li of the University of Pennsylvania, the study examined the sleep habits of nearly 3,000 Chinese adults aged 65 and older, including whether or not they took afternoon naps.

The goal was to determine if this extra sleep during the day had any effects on brain function. The participants were asked to undergo several mental status tests, including basic math problems and answering simple questions.

The volunteers were also asked to memorize certain words and copy drawings of simple geometric objects.

More than half of the participants – nearly 60 percent – took regular naps after lunch, the duration of the naps ranging between 30-90 minutes. The majority of them slept for one hour.

The participants who napped for an hour after lunch performed better at their tasks than those who didn’t nap at all.

Those who napped for one hour performed better than those who slept for less or more than an hour.

For those who took short naps, long naps or no naps at all, the declines in their mental abilities measured up to six times greater than for those who slept for an hour in the afternoon.

Note: although the study found a relationship between an hour-long nap in the afternoon and improved brain function, it was unable to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

An important goal for older people is to maintain their memory and decision-making abilities. Researchers are paying more attention to the role of sleep and rest in healthy mental function.