Is a daily nap the key to the fountain of youth? scientists say so

A nap might have surprising health benefits
Napping could have surprising health benefits (Image: Getty/Tetra)

If you take regular naps during the day, you don’t need to feel guilty anymore — it could be good for your brain’s health, new research shows.

A daytime nap could slow the rate at which the brain shrinks with age, the study conducted by researchers at UCL and the University of the Republic of Uruguay found.

The researchers hope their findings on the health benefits of daytime sleep will reduce the stigma that still exists around daytime napping.

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The study suggests that the brains of habitual naps were, on average, 15 cubic centimeters larger than the brains of those who didn’t, ranging in age from 2.6 to 6.5 years.

“Our findings suggest that for some people, short daytime naps may be part of the puzzle that could help maintain brain health as we age,” said lead author Dr. Victoria Garfield from MRC’s Lifelong Health Aging Unit at UCL.

The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, analyzed data from people aged 40 to 69.

Previous research has shown that people who took short naps scored better on cognitive tests over the hours that followed than those who did not nap.

Famous power nappers

Winston Churchill slept at least an hour in the afternoon during World War II…

Leonardo da Vinci took a 20-minute nap every four hours while painting the Mona Lisa, known as the Uberman Cycle…

Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein were both fans of naps…

President Ronald Reagan denied he took a nap for fear of being labeled lazy — according to this new study, he shouldn’t have worried…

The new study examined whether there is a causal link between daytime naps and brain health.

Researchers examined 97 snippets of DNA to determine the likelihood of habitual napping.

Using data from 378,932 people from the UK Biobank study, they compared measures of brain health and cognition from people who are genetically more programmed to nap with those who did not have these changes in their DNA .

Some people are genetically predisposed to napping
Some people are genetically predisposed to napping (Picture: Getty)

They found that people who were preprogrammed to take naps had greater total brain volume overall.

The genetic variants – DNA changes – that affect someone’s likelihood of napping were identified in a previous study looking at data from 452,633 UK biobank participants.

However, the researchers found no difference in how well those programmed to take naps regularly did on three other measures of brain health and cognitive function.

Lead author and PhD student Valentina Paz from the University of the Republic (Uruguay) and UCL said: “This is the first study attempting to decipher the causal relationship between habitual daytime napping and cognitive and structural outcomes in the brain.”

To sleep well

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“By looking at genes laid down at birth, Mendelian randomization avoids confounding factors that arise throughout life that could influence associations between naps and health outcomes.”

“Our study suggests a causal association between habitual napping and larger total brain volume.”

dr Garfield added, “I hope that studies like these, which show the health benefits of short naps, can help reduce the stigma that still exists around daytime naps.”

MORE: Meet the man from Samsung on his mission to help the world sleep better

MORE: Try power napping to overcome post-fest fatigue

Justin Scaccy

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