Can Daytime Naps Boost Your Brain's Health? Yes, Says New Study

Taking short naps during the day can help in protecting the brain’s health as it ages, a new study suggests.

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Taking short naps during the day can help protect your brain's health as it ages, finds a new study published in the Journal, Sleep Health.

Researchers from University College London and the University of the Republic in Uruguay reached this conclusion after finding that the practice could be linked to brains having a larger volume.

Here's what the study found.

The Big Point: Short naps protect the brain against shrinkage, research says.

Brain shrinkage is a process that accelerates with age, and occurs in individuals facing cognitive problems and neurodegenerative diseases.

"We found an association between habitual daytime napping and larger total brain volume, which could suggest that napping regularly provides some protection against neurodegeneration through compensating for poor sleep," the researchers were quoted as saying by The Guardian.

How The Study Was Conducted: Researchers drew on the data of 35,080 participants from the UK's Biobank.

They enquired about the combination of genetic variants that were previously associated with self-reported habitual daytime napping with its linkage to brain volume, cognition, and other aspects of brain health.

Although initially it appeared that the participants who reported to have never, or rarely, napped during the day had a larger total brain volume, the team went on the find a reverse relationship while considering the genetic predisposition to napping.

This suggested that the initial finding may have been a result of other factors influencing the relationship between daytime napping and brain size.


The Findings:

  • An association between genetic predisposition and habitual daytime napping in relation to a larger brain volume was established.

  • The larger brain volume is equivalent to 2.6 to 6.5 fewer years of ageing.

Yes, But, the researchers weren't able to establish a link between napping, brain volume, and improved cognitive function. So, how exactly the 'slow ageing' would benefit the individual is still unknown.

  • The duration of naps associated with the benefits is unclear.

  • It remains unknown whether the same benefits of napping would apply to individuals without a genetic predisposition.

The study also consists only of data belonging to the Caucasian British population.

Why the study matters:

"This study is important because it adds to the data indicating sleep is important for brain health."
Professor Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, as quoted by The Guardian

"It could be having a short daytime nap could help preserve brain volume and that's a positive thing, potentially, [for] dementia prevention," said Dr Victoria Garfield, co-author of the study.

(Written with inputs from the Guardian.)

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Topics:  Sleep   Brain 

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