How Naps Can Help Prevent Brain Shrinkage

Across the industry, we often encounter new research that reshapes our understanding of how best to take care of ourselves and our loved ones In the past, studies have shown that long naps could lead to Alzheimer’s, (Longer and more frequent daytime, excessive naps a year later.) but recent studies from UCL and the University of the Republic in Uruguay have shown naps could help prevent brain shrinkage.

A researcher notes, “In line with these studies, we found an association between habitual daytime napping and larger total brain volume, which could suggest that napping regularly provides some protection against neurodegeneration through compensating for poor sleep.” Naps are the In the evolving landscape of health and wellness. While napping has historically received a mixed bag of reviews, other research also revealed that short naps enhance learning ability. This new study seems to provide evidence supporting the latter claim, suggesting that napping could play a role in shielding against neurodegeneration, possibly compensating for inadequate nighttime sleep.

The research team from UCL and the University of the Republic in Uruguay drew their findings from the UK Biobank study’s data, which covers genetic, lifestyle, and health information from 500,000 people aged 40 to 69. Utilizing data from 35,080 Biobank participants, they explored the potential linkage between certain genetic variants—associated with self-reported habitual daytime napping—and brain volume, cognition, and other facets of brain health.

Interestingly, while it initially seemed that participants who rarely or never took a daytime nap had a larger total brain volume, the research team discovered the opposite when genetic predisposition to napping was considered. This unexpected reversal indicated that other variables may have initially obscured the relationship between daytime napping and brain size.

Researchers identified a link between genetic predisposition to habitual daytime napping and larger brain volume. This association corresponded to 2.6 to 6.5 fewer years of aging, although no direct relationship was found with cognitive performance like reaction times.

Dr. Victoria Garfield, a co-author of the study, posited, “It could be having a short daytime nap … could help preserve brain volume and that’s a positive thing, potentially, [for] dementia prevention.” She suggested a nap duration of up to 30 minutes might be beneficial.

However, it’s important to note that this study has limitations. For example, it’s not clear if the same benefits of napping would be seen in people without a predisposition. Additionally, the study was only based on data from white British people, and it did not clearly define the exact duration of naps associated with the benefits.

Regardless of the limitations, the study adds to the growing body of research emphasizing the importance of sleep for brain health. As we move forward, we must continue to explore innovative ways to promote brain health in our aging population. In the future, if you find yourself feeling a little worn out in the afternoon, consider taking a short nap. It might just be the brain-boosting activity you need to help maintain a healthy, active mind.