A regular afternoon nap may be linked to improved mental agility, suggests research published in General Psychiatry, locking in better locational awareness, verbal fluency and working memory.
The study has particular implications for older people. We all know seniors nap more – they’re not called ‘nanna naps’ for nothing. But previous research hadn’t been able to establish whether afternoon naps might help stave off cognitive decline and dementia or be a symptom of it.
In the study, researchers looked at the habits of 2214 people aged 60 and over in China. Of these, 1534 took a regular afternoon nap. All participants then underwent a series of health checks and cognitive assessments, including the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) to check for dementia.
It turns out a little shuteye goes a long way, with nappers outperforming their bleary-eyed peers in terms of locational awareness, verbal fluency and memory.
How does it work? One theory is that sleep regulates the body's immune response and napping is thought to be an evolved response to inflammation; people with higher levels of inflammation also nap more often, explain the researchers.
Which means it isn’t just our elders who are likely to benefit from a cognitive beauty sleep. Just make sure you set an alarm. According to sleep.org, in order to stay in the “shallow” sleep phases and avoid waking up groggy, you need to keep naps to around 15-30 minutes.