Health & Wellness

Afternoon Naps May Help Keep the Brain Sharp

Researchers say an hour or so is optimal

By Lola Augustine Brown

There’s no reason to feel guilty about that power nap you like to catch after lunch. Research results suggest that it might help boost both thinking and memory and keep older brains in shape.

According to a report published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, a study involving nearly 3,000 Chinese seniors aged 65 or older found that an a hour-long nap improved subjects’ performance on mental tests involving math and memory games (63 minutes was the average).

The length of the nap seems to be important. Those who didn’t nap at all or napped for 30 minutes or less or 90 minutes or more had lower scores than those who napped for an hour, a group comprising 57.7% of participants. They also experienced mental decline roughly equal to that a five-year increase in age could be expected to cause—about four to six times greater than that experienced by than the 60-minute nappers.

Photos: iStock/DGLimages (top) and zeremski (bottom).