‘Regular' afternoon naps linked to better mental agility, study finds

Of the 2,214 people who took part in the study, 1,534 took a regular afternoon nap of between five minutes and two hours
Megan Baynes (PA)

TAKING a “regular” afternoon nap may be linked to better mental agility, a study has found.

Researchers found sleeping in the afternoon was associated with better locational awareness, verbal fluency and working memory in an ageing Chinese population.

The study, published in online journal General Psychiatry, examined the sleep patterns of 2,214 healthy people aged 60 and over in China.

Of those who took part, 1,534 took a regular afternoon nap of between five minutes and two hours, while 680 did not.

All participants took part in a dementia screening test, which found “significant” differences in locational awareness, verbal fluency and memory, with scores higher among the napping group.

The study said: “In addition to reducing sleepiness, mid-day naps offer a variety of benefits such as memory consolidation, preparation for subsequent learning, executive functioning enhancement and a boost to emotional stability, but these effects were not observed in all cases.”

However, the authors, from a specialist journal published by the BMJ, did point out research to date could not conclude whether afternoon naps stave off dementia and cognitive decline in older people, or whether they might be a symptom of dementia.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “Scientists continue to work to unravel the relationship between sleep and dementia. Unusual sleep patterns are common for people with dementia, but research suggests that sleep changes could be apparent long before any symptoms like memory loss start to show.”

Those in the habit of afternoon napping were also found to have a higher level of triglyceride – a type of fat found in the blood – which meant napping was linked with associated cardiovascular disease risk factors, the study said.

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