Home > Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia & Brain Health > Napping In The Afternoon Can Improve Learning & Memory For Seniors

Napping In The Afternoon Can Improve Learning & Memory For Seniors

Napoleon Bonaparte napped because he had chronic insomnia and could only sleep about three hours a night.
Thomas Edison napped in lieu of sleeping at night. He believed that sleeping was a waste of time, “a deplorable regression to the primitive state of a caveman,” but he napped frequently and for long periods. Albert Einstein felt that his daily naps “refreshed the mind” and made him more creative. During World War II, Winston Churchill scheduled his cabinet meetings around his daily catnaps. Salvador Dali napped in his armchair, holding a spoon over a metal pan on the floor below. When Dali hit REM sleep and lost muscle control, the spoon would fall from his grip, bang the metal pan and awaken him. Studies show that taking a nap is a great way to increase alertness and reaction times, improve mood, and reduce accidents. For many people, napping is also a highly pleasurable experience.

Although most assisted living communities have activity-packed calendars, many seem to leave a couple of hours open in the afternoons so residents can rest or simply have free time. Recent research is providing evidence that a well-timed afternoon nap may be the best way to combat sleepiness, improve performance, and overcome the late day grogginess commonly known as the “midday dip.” Gregory Belenky, MD, Research Professor and Director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, says, “A large number of the world’s people divide their sleep into two blocks, with the afternoon sleep called a siesta in most Spanish speaking countries. Mediterranean countries have always kept attuned to the biorhythms that American culture tries to ignore, and they’ve found a way to work around the body’s internal clock. It’s called the riposo in Italy.

Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece traditionally observe an early afternoon shutdown that begins at noon to 1:30pm and runs until 2:30 to 4pm.  Museums, most churches, shops, businesses, just about everything except restaurants, lower the shutters and lock the doors so that proprietors can either go home or head to a local trattoria for a long lunch and perhaps a snooze during the day’s hottest hours. There are a variety of studies that prove that nighttime sleep improves learning. The idea is that newly learned knowledge or skills are integrated in the brain during sleep. But do naps serve the same role? A new study by researchers at Harvard University has provided strong evidence that it does. The Harvard researchers found that taking a 45 minute nap helps improve learning and memory and has a benefit similar to that of nighttime sleep.

Combining nighttime sleep with napping has twice the positive effect. It is even possible that divided sleep is more recuperative than sleep taken in a single block. Author, Cathleen Schine, romantically describes her families’ love affair with the art of napping when she writes, “naps float, weightless and temporal, they are nature’s whim.” Although appreciative of the Harvard research, when describing her son’s early inability to sleep, she said, “I was even more grateful for a family legacy that taught me, and allowed me to teach him, that not everything has to be useful, not everything has to lead to something more.” She adds that, “Sometimes, for no reason and with no purpose, you can just curl up on the couch, feel the soft breeze, and drift into a soft, delicious sleep that leads to nowhere in particular, and back again.” When fatigue sets in, a quick nap can do wonders for your mental and physical stamina.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care Chicago, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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