Napping your way to a healthier brain

Napping your way to a healthier brain

Our brains, just as our muscles, shrink with the advancing years.

And that comes with potential consequences. Some scientists say having a brain with less volume might lead to cognitive decline. Smaller brains, they say, are biologically older.

Previous research shows exercise might protect the brain. Some also argue mental tasks like puzzles and learning a new skill do the same.

Here’s a potential task to keep the brain healthy that requires no effort at all: napping.

A study led by English and Uruguayan researchers shows a causal link between habitual daytime napping and having a bigger brain in adults ages 40 to 69. They believe this might be part of the answer to the mystery of why some people remain cognitively fit much deeper into their golden years.

The investigators didn’t watch or time people napping. Instead, they used an innovative technique involving our genetic fingerprint.

Humans have 95 snippets of DNA that are believed to predispose them to napping. Researchers compared a group of people with these genes to a group without them.

The strength of this work is the large number of human DNA samples examined. Information was drawn from the massive UK Biobank database. This allowed a gene analysis of nearly 400,000 people.

The comparison showed the nappers had brains up to six-and-a-half years younger biologically than those without the requisite genes.

How much shut-eye is enough? Previous work suggests 30 minutes, give or take.

One last thing, nappers. Your reaction time and visual processing was no different than others in the biobank study.

So, don’t get too big a head.

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