The beloved siesta, catnap, power nap, the afternoon nap goes by many names. While customary in many European countries, a 30 minute or less nap per day has been linked with better immunity, alertness, mood improvements, reducing stress, and now, mental agility. As we age, our sleep patterns change with us, and afternoon naps become a more common occurrence.
But research conducted to date has not reached any consensus about whether afternoon naps in older people will help to stave off cognitive loss and dementia or whether they could be a dementia symptom. In 2214 ostensibly stable individuals aged at least 60 and residing in many major cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian, the researchers further explored this. In all, 1534 took a daily nap in the afternoon, while 680 did not. A series of health tests and cognitive evaluations were carried out by all participants, including the Mini Mental State Test (MMSE) to screen for dementia. Afternoon naps were described as periods of sleep of at least five consecutive minutes, but not more than two hours, which were taken after lunch. Participants were asked how frequently during the week they napped; this varied from once a week to every day.
Among the nappers, the MMSE cognitive achievement scores were substantially higher than among those who didn't nap. And in locational knowledge, verbal fluency, and memory, there were important differences. 30 items were included in the dementia screening assessments that assessed many facets of cognitive capacity and greater function, including visual-spatial abilities, working memory, attention span, problem solving, locational awareness and verbal fluency.
So the next time you are considering powering through your afternoon slump, consider a brief nap to help strengthen memory, attention, and awareness.