Napping in the afternoon can improve memory and alertness – here’s why
It is a tradition in many societies to have an afternoon nap, most popularised by the Spanish Siesta. Psychology scholars John Axelsson and Tina Sundelin, in this article, highlight recent studies around the benefits of mid-day naps not just in terms of recharging our mental batteries but also long term cognitive benefits. As the authors highlights whilst most workplaces are not equipped to facilitate a midday nap, ‘work from home’ actually makes it a practical routine now.
“While short naps are great for increasing energy, longer naps are both more restorative and beneficial for learning. For example, they improve activation of the hippocampus – an area of the brain important for learning and memory. A one to two hour afternoon nap is shown to benefit both your motor skills and your ability to recall facts and events.
A recent study from China has even suggested that regular afternoon napping is linked to better cognitive function in older adults. The researchers asked 2,200 over-70s about their napping habits before having them undergo a series of cognitive tests which measured things like memory and language skills. They found that those who usually napped were less likely to have cognitive impairments than those who didn’t. This was true regardless of age or level of education.
But nap length may play a role here – a similar study showed that those who usually napped for 30-90 minutes had better overall cognition compared to those who napped for longer or shorter, or who didn’t nap at all.”