A one-hour nap a day may improve memory and thinking skills in older adults

By Rebecca Burton • Published: April 18th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s no secret that as we age, we see a decline in our general cognitive function, our ability to remember, pay attention and reason. We can all empathize with that frustrating feeling when we misplace our keys or walk into a room and forget why we’re there.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that the secret to improving our mind as we age could be as simple as taking an afternoon power nap.  But how long is the optimal nap?

Experts at the National Sleep Foundation say a 20- to 30-minute daytime nap can increase alertness without ruining your nighttime snooze. Other research has shown that regular napping can improve memory by fivefold. This study found that in adults over the age of 65, the optimal nap is one hour long.

To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed data from 2,974 Chinese adults aged 65 and older. Participants underwent tests that measured attention, memory and visuospatial abilities. They were put into groups of non-nappers, short nappers, moderate nappers and extended nappers.

Results showed that compared with non-nappers, moderate nappers who snoozed for about an hour in the daytime performed better on the cognitive tests. These moderate nappers also performed better than the short nappers who slept less than 30 minutes and the extended nappers who slept for more than 90 minutes a day.

The researchers also found that compared with moderate nappers, those who took no naps, short naps or extended naps experienced a decline in cognitive ability roughly equivalent to a five-year age increase.

Would taking a nap help improve your cognitive function? That’s something to sleep on.