HEALTH / WELLNESS

Study Proves That Afternoon Siesta Can Improve Cognitive Power In Older People

It is a well known fact that the cognitive power of the brain reduces gradually as people age. The tendency of older people to have problem in remembering small details such as names, location of objects of everyday use, or even their inability to assimilate new information is indicative of this fact. In some older people, the condition is so severe that it leads to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  The good news is that taking an hour-long nap can actually help in enhancing the cognitive functionality of older people. Now various studies have proven that a nap in the afternoon can help improve the memory and thinking power of individuals by increasing the brain performance.

About The Study

As mentioned before, multiple studies were carried out to learn about the health benefits of taking an afternoon siesta. One such study, whose reports were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, proved that short afternoon naps can help in boosting alertness and mental performance. The study was conducted by Junxin Li and her team, from the Centre For Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. The researchers analyzed the data collected from 2,974 Chinese adults aged above 65 years. The choice of these test subjects was based on the fact that taking an afternoon nap forms an integral part of the Chinese lifestyle. These adults were a part of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study and each of them underwent a series of tests.

The tests were performed to access the attention, episodic memory, and visuospatial abilities of the individuals and included mathematical tests, world recall, and figure drawing. In addition, they were also asked to provide information about the average duration of their post lunch nap over the period of the past one month. Based on their answers, the test subjects were categorized into four groups, namely those who did not take any nap at all, those who took small naps of less than 30 minutes, those who took moderate naps of 30-90 minutes and those who slept for more than 90 minutes. It was established that around 57.7 % of the research subjects took a moderate post lunch nap of around 1 hour duration.

Findings Of The Study

The researchers came to know that people who took a moderate length nap in the afternoon performed better in the cognitive tests as compared to those who did not sleep at all, as well as those who took short or extended naps. It was observed that the mental abilities of non-nappers, short nappers and extended napper reduced 4-6 times more than moderate nappers. The researchers also observed that the enhancement in the cognitive function of adults who enjoyed a moderate afternoon siesta was comparable to a 5 year reduction in age. However, Li and her team made it clear that since the results of the study were purely based on observation, it did not provide conclusive evidence about the direct impact of afternoon siestas on the cognitive function of older people.

What The Study Implies?

Even though the results of the study warrant further investigation, it has definitely provided some credibility to the ancient tradition of taking an afternoon nap, followed in various Eastern world cultures. However, the study has also highlighted the fact that these naps prove beneficial only if they are moderately timed. Sleeping for an extremely shorter or longer duration can in fact affect the cognitive ability of adults in a negative manner. This can in turn enhance the risk of conditions that lead to dementia. Hence while it is a good thing for growing adults to enjoy a post lunch afternoon siesta, they should take care to make it no longer than one hour.

 

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