There’s nothing quite like taking a nap mid-afternoon. Yes, sleeping at night is great, but getting 30 minutes of shut-eye in the day is even better.
And that cheeky half an hour on the sofa could also be working wonders for your brain health, new research has found.
In fact, having a quick nap in the afternoon could slow the rate your brain shrinks as you age, according to a study led by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of the Republic in Uruguay.
The researchers involved in the study want the findings to reduce the stigma associated with daytime napping for adults.
They said the average difference in brain volume between serial nappers and those who do not nap was parallel to 2.6 to 6.5 years of ageing.
“Our findings suggest that, for some people, short daytime naps may be a part of the puzzle that could help preserve the health of the brain as we get older,” said senior author Dr Victoria Garfield, of the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing at UCL.
The study, which was published in the journal Sleep Health, examined adults aged 40 to 69.
Researchers analysed 97 tiny parts of DNA believed to control people’s probability of being serial nappers.
They compared measures of brain health of people more genetically programmed to nap, with people who did not have these changes in DNA. Data from 378,932 people from the UK Biobank study was used.
The study found that those who were predetermined to snooze in the afternoon had a larger total brain volume.
But, there was not a notable difference in how those who were predestined to nap performed on three other measures of brain health and cognitive function.
“Our study points to a causal link between habitual napping and larger total brain volume,” said lead author and PhD candidate Valentina Paz, of the University of the Republic (Uruguay) and MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing at UCL.
“I hope studies such as this one showing the health benefits of short naps can help to reduce any stigma that still exists around daytime napping,” Dr Garfield added.