Take A Nap For Your Memory

February 25, 2010 at 7:53 pm 4 comments

Caught In The Act! Napping photo by k_vohsen on Stock.Xchng I grew up with a pretty negative view of napping – catching a few extra Z’s at work, school or even on a weekend was treated as lazy and indulgent, tolerated only if someone is sick or seriously overworked.

But evidence is piling up that naps are not only good for general brain health, but  can improve our  memory and actually make us smarter. The longer we stay awake, the slower our minds seem to function – and this is true whether we’re pulling all-nighters or just staying awake during a normal working day.

In a new study led by Matthew Walker  of UC Berkeley, researchers separated 39 healthy adults into two groups.  Both groups were put through a mentally taxing study session at noon, requiring them to connect faces and names.   Both groups did about as well on their tasks this first time around.

But at 2pm, one of the groups was sent to take an hour and a half nap, while the other group stayed awake.

At 6pm, all of the participants were put through a new learning session – one on which the ‘nappers’ did better than the non-nappers, and actually improved on their own earlier results.

The results support the idea that sleep helps to move newly formed memories from short to longer term storage, where there’s more room.  The lead researcher compared it to having a full email-box that just can’t receive any more mail.  But if you move some of that mail to a storage folder, the information flows freely again.

This wasn’t the first study on memory and napping, but it’s significant because it focused on a particular type of sleep – non-REM, a stage where we don’t dream.  The researchers plan to do more investigation, to see if the lower amount of sleep that many seniors experience may be related to the failing ability to learn as we age, and hopefully will provide new clues to Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention, as well as general brain fitness in seniors.

Me? I don’t plan to wait for their results.  I’m already working to change those views of naps I grew up with.   Far from being indulgent or lazy, it seems that mid-afternoon siestas may be more like…. well…. medicine for the memory!

What say you? Have you always seen value in naps, or do you tend to see them as indulgent?

Entry filed under: Sleep.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Donald  |  February 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

    This is such an interesting piece of research. Wish I could tap a nap more often. Another interesting piece I read recently was in this Alz. Reading Room article – how the creative arts help with remarkable results the video clip is amazing:


    • 2. Tori Deaux  |  March 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      What a great site, and that’s just a brilliant video clip, Donald… thanks for sharing it. Creativity and the brain are two of my favorite topics, and I write about them pretty often, but would love to delve much, much deeper.

  • 3. Terry  |  February 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Naps are great, would love to have one every day if I could, now I know when I do get a chance it is doing me a world of good.

    • 4. Tori Deaux  |  March 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      I think I’ll go curl up for a nap now, on your behalf, Terry 😉


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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
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Authored by Tori Deaux
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