Taking a nap of around an hour after lunch is linked to the biggest long-term boost in mental health, new research suggests.
Almost 3,000 Chinese people over the age of 65 were included in the study of napping.
Around 60% reported taking a nap after lunch.
The researchers found that those taking an hour-long nap did the best on measures of memory and cognition.
The study’s authors explain their results:
“…a moderate-duration nap taken during the postlunch dip is associated with better overall cognition.
Older adults who did not nap or napped longer than 90 minutes (extended nappers) were significantly more likely than those who napped for 30 to 90 minutes after lunch (moderate nappers) to have lower overall cognition scores…”
In comparison, those who took shorter naps, longer naps or no naps were cognitively older.
It worked out that people who did not nap for around an hour were cognitively five years older:
“In the final analysis, no napping, short napping, and extended napping were associated with worse overall cognition than moderate napping.
The difference in overall cognition associated with these napping groups was similar to or greater than the decline in cognition associated with a 5-year increase in age.”
Best nap time
The study is one of the first to look at the benefits of longer afternoon naps.
The benefits of short naps are already well-known, the study’s authors write:
“…the short-term benefits of brief naps (e.g., 10 minutes) are well documented in previous studies and include greater alertness and accuracy and speed when performing a number of cognitive tasks, including psychomotor performance and short-term memory…”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Li et al., 2016).