Do You Regularly Take Power Naps? You May Be Protecting Your Brain

Feel like you’re wasting the day away when you take a nap? You may not need to worry. It could actually be giving you a bigger brain.

Researchers from University College London and the University of the Republic in Uruguay recently published a paper in the journal Sleep Health investigating the brain differences between people who are programmed to be nappers and those who aren’t. They found that the first group has a larger brain volume. This suggests that daytime snooze may actually be helpful.

Woman snoozing on her sectional

Dr. Victoria Garfield, senior author from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing at UCL, explains, “Our findings suggest that, for some people, short daytime naps may be a part of the puzzle that could help preserve the health of the brain as we get older.”

To determine the benefits of napping, the team looked at 97 pieces of DNA that had been linked in a prior study with likelihood to habitually nap. They then investigated the brains and cognition of nearly 380,000 participants in the long-running UK Biobank database to study the differences between those with this genetic variant and those without. For those with the daytime snooze gene, there was a larger brain volume, which corresponded to an aging difference of 2.6 to 6.5 years compared to other participants.

Taking a nap on a hammock

Valentina Paz, lead author and PhD candidate, explains, “This is the first study to attempt to untangle the causal relationship between habitual daytime napping and cognitive and structural brain outcomes. By looking at genes set at birth, Mendelian randomisation avoids confounding factors occurring throughout life that may influence associations between napping and health outcomes. Our study points to a causal link between habitual napping and larger total brain volume.”

Going forward, the team says future studies could investigate how napping is linked to other cognitive or brain attributes.

Past research has shown there are other brain benefits to a 30-to-90-minute nap in seniors. Those include better word recall and better figure drawing. However, pushing that nap past 90 minutes is linked with worse cognitive outcomes. Additionally, other research has also linked too much sleep at night with Alzheimer’s.

Man napping on sofa with book over his head
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