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New Study Suggests Napping Associated with Greater Brain Volume

28 Jun, 2023 F.J. Thomas

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Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Encouraging employees to nap on their lunch break may help preserve their brain health, according to the results of a new study published earlier this month in Sleep Health

Eighty percent of children under the age of 2, and 65 percent of 3-year-olds take naps. However, as the age increases, the tendency to nap decreases to around 13.7 percent up to age 64. Then at age 65, the number of napping increases to 27 percent. 

Numerous studies have shown that even a short nap of only 15 minutes, the improvements in cognitive function can last up to three hours. After a thirty-minute nap, researchers have noted a temporary immediate deterioration of performance, followed by cognitive improvements that can last all day. Yet when looked at as a whole, between groups that nap and those that don’t, study results have been somewhat mixed. 

Researchers from University College London located in the United Kingdom, in coordination with the University of the Republic of Uruguay, Montevideo set out to find if there was an association between napping during the day, and cognitive function and brain volume. Using Mendelian randomization, the researchers studied DNA samples, MRI data, and cognitive outcomes for participants in the ongoing UK Biobank Study

The UK Biobank Study includes the genetic data and in depth health information from over a half million UK patients. Starting out with data of 372,932 participants of which the average age was 57, the researchers compared data and brain health between those patients that were genetically more likely to take a nap as compared to those that did not have those genetic variations. 

Overall, the researchers noted a larger brain volume in those participants that napped on a regular basis. The average difference was 15.8 cm, equivalent to approximately 2.6 to 6.5 years difference in aging. The researchers noted that the variance equates to the difference in brain volume between people with normal cognitive function, and mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers did not note an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is responsible for memory. They also did not see a difference in reaction time, or visual memory. 

While the researchers concede that more studies need to be done, based on the results they speculate that napping could offer some protection against cognitive decline by compensating for poor sleep.


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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