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A New Study Finds Afternoon Naps Aid the Cognitive Function of the Over 60s

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c. Fabrizio Maestroni. Flickr

The study, which is in the General Psychiatry and conducted in China, shows that brief afternoon naps boost cognitive functions. It suggested that four naps a week, which last less than 30 minutes, are the most helpful. 

With a direct focus on the over 60s, this is the first study that explores the relationship between cognitive function and napping. 

Older people who nap during the day exhibit:  

  • Stronger cognitive function
  • Better memory and orientation 
  • Improved Language function
Why is napping so important? 

Dementia currently affects 5-7% of adults aged 65 worldwide. With people living much longer than previous generations, it is expected that this number will gradually rise in the future. 

Currently, there is no cure for dementia, so investigations like this one are invaluable in identifying key ways in which over 60s can help improve their cognitive functions. In turn, it is hoped that it will decrease the chances of people getting dementia.  

Previous studies have identified links with dementia and disrupted sleep patterns. The author of the study explains that many findings have been inconsistent in the past, however, they explained that this study focuses more on types of naps.   

Planning your naps provides the best benefits  

Analysis of the information found that the type of nap someone takes has adverse effects on cognitive function. Longer and more frequent naps tended to be associated with weaker function, while 30-minute naps, four times a week had the best impact. 

Interestingly, planned naps compared to natural naps also showed more benefits for cognitive function.  

These naps lead to an 84% decrease in the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

The research consisted of the analysis of over 2,000 healthy people from large Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Xian, and Beijing. The average sleep interval at nighttime was 6.5 hours. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment and the Mini-Mental State Exam was used to evaluate cognitive function.