There is almost nothing as blissful as an afternoon nap, yet many of us seldom have the opportunity to indulge in a nap outside of normal bedtime hours. Aside from simply leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of your day with a renewed vigor, many researchers have spoken of the many short and long-term benefits of napping.
Naps can provide a much-needed reprieve from the homeostatic sleep drive, or the feeling of pressure to sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, this homeostatic sleep drive slowly increases in pressure throughout the day until we are finally tired enough to fall asleep. However, a bit of shut-eye during the middle of the day can diminish the homeostatic sleep drive, thus making you feel more rested and awake. As a result of feeling more awake, you can improve learning, aid in the formation of memories, regulate your emotions, and much more.
While it may feel like an indulgence, growing evidence points to the fact that regular naps can actually boost your brain health.
Take a short nap for improved brain function
In January, a study published in the General Psychiatry journal found that elderly patients who had short afternoon naps that lasted between five minutes and two hours showed higher cognitive performance that was marked by increased orientation, language function, and memory when compared to their non-napping counterparts. According to the researchers involved in the study, napping is “beneficial to the recovery of the immune system.” This sort of healing of the body during sleep or an afternoon nap counters the inflammatory mediators that can cause inflammation in the brain. Another study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society confirmed the fact that naps help with memory and improved cognition.
The most important aspect of the nap is its length. According to John Hopkins Medicine, naps that last longer than 90 minutes can make your body and brain believe that you are laying down to sleep as you would for a normal night’s rest between seven to nine hours. However, because it’s likely that your nap will not meet that last that long, your brain will register your long nap as an unsuccessful night’s sleep and you’ll likely wake from the nap only feeling groggier and out of sorts.
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