New research suggests that taking regular daytime naps not only leaves you feeling refreshed but also benefits your brain. A study analyzing data from individuals aged 40 to 69 has found that napping during the day may slow down age-related brain shrinkage.
Researchers discovered that habitual nappers had a larger total brain volume compared to those who did not nap. The average difference in brain volume between the two groups was equivalent to 2.6 to 6.5 years of aging. The study aims to reduce the stigma associated with daytime napping by shedding light on its potential health benefits.
Previous studies have indicated that individuals who take short naps tend to perform better in cognitive tests in the hours following their nap. The recent research, published in the journal Sleep Health, examined whether there was a causal relationship between daytime napping and brain health.
Scientists investigated 97 snippets of DNA associated with habitual napping and compared brain health and cognition measures of individuals genetically predisposed to nap with those who lacked these genetic changes. The data included 378,932 participants from the UK Biobank study.
While the study revealed that genetically predisposed habitual nappers had a larger total brain volume, no significant differences were observed in their performance on three other measures of brain health and cognitive function.
Lead author Valentina Paz, a PhD candidate at the University of the Republic (Uruguay) and the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing at UCL, highlighted the study’s use of Mendelian randomization, which examines genes set at birth, to explore the causal relationship between napping and brain outcomes. This approach helps eliminate confounding factors that may influence associations between napping and health outcomes.
Dr. Victoria Garfield, senior author from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing at UCL, expressed hope that studies like this would help reduce any remaining stigma surrounding daytime napping, by showcasing the health benefits associated with short naps.