Naps Improve Brain Function in Seniors

For some years now, research has indicated that naps are good for everyone. It has been discovered by successful executives, athletes, and super-powered individuals the world over that naps can really make one more efficient and successful. As Brett and Kate McKay pointed out, there are some extremely famous historical nappers such as: Winston Churchill, Lyndon B. Johnson, Napoleon Bonaparte, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison and more.

But research of this kind has not focused as much on the elderly. Recently though a new study has focused on elderly napping which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The researchers investigated the concept of mid-day napping, looking at the best time for optimal results. These (US and Chinese) researchers found that one hour naps after lunch helped the elderly “perform better on the mental tests compared to the people who did not nap.” They discovered this by giving seniors tests including word recall, simple math questions and testing season/day of the year responses. The nappers’ showed better cognitive capacity than the non-nappers and those who had slept for shorter or longer periods. The average time of the nap was 63 minutes (ranging from a half hour to 90 minutes). Those who participated in the study were 65 and older.

After lunch is considered to be the optimum time for lunch – known as the circadian dip period (between 1 and 4 pm). This time is also good as it is less likely to ruin nighttime sleep. According to HealthinAging, the study participants who either did not nap or who did not stick to the nap time frame encountered the same decline in their mental capacity that a 5 year age increase would be expected to cause.

A less recent study (that was undertaken in 2010) ‘Sleep, Well-Being and Active Ageing: New Evidence for Policy and Practice,’ found that a lot of older people tried not to nap as they did not want to be branded ‘old’ or ‘lazy’ but that University of Surrey experts deemed this to be a mistake. This study however differed from the more recent one that found an “occasional” nap to be beneficial. As Sociology Department staff member Susan Venn pointed out: “Sleep is central to health and well-being, but as people get older, the quality of their sleep can deteriorate. They shouldn’t feel guilty or think themselves lazy for having a nap.” What this research did found in a negative light was that without a nap, the elderly will tend to fall asleep watching TV during early evening.

With the elderly it is especially important to take naps since they are more likely to encounter disturbed nighttime sleeps. So with a nap, they make up for some of that.