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The Pros and Cons of Napping

When I lie down to nap, I’m usually not tired, but fall asleep instantly nonetheless. I nap because I read somewhere that it’s good for seniors, but could it really be a sign of laziness, low energy, or even illness? Let’s take a look at ‘napping’ and see what the medical community has to say.

Hopkins Medicine asks: “Are you feeling a little guilty about your daily, mid-afternoon snooze? Don’t. Research shows that catching a few ZZZs after lunch can be good for your brain. But keep in mind that the length of your nap matters.

“While a 30 to 90-minute nap in older adults appears to have brain benefits, anything longer than an hour and a half may create problems with cognition, the ability to think and form memories, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.”

The article continues: “Research says that the best time for older adults to take to nap is between 1 and 4 p.m. because of their sleep-wake cycles, says Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. “Napping this time of day will provide you with the most bang for your buck,” she says.

“Ideally, the nap should last between 20 and 40 minutes to avoid feeling groggy immediately after you wake up. ‘A quick cat nap should be restorative,’ she says. Shorter naps also ensure you don’t have trouble falling asleep at night.”

So far so good. I go down pretty much between 1:00 and 1:30 and don’t move again for 45 minutes and I agree there can be a groggy feeling. A hot cup of decaf tea gets me going again.

The University of California at San Francisco discovered startling findings about napping too long: “The study [published June 18, 2019 in Alzheimer's & Dementia] found that men who had napped for an average of two hours or more per day at the beginning of the study were 66 percent more likely to develop clinically significant cognitive impairment than men who had only napped for 30 minutes or less a day.

“There has been increasing evidence that nighttime sleep disturbances might be a risk factor for dementia, but the role of daytime napping has always been controversial,” said study lead author Yue Leng, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF. ‘For the first time, we can clearly show an association between objectively measured naps and long-term risk of cognitive decline.’

“Whether or not excessive napping actually contributes to cognitive decline,” [excessive napping] is a clearly observable behavior that might be useful as a preclinical marker to predict who is at greater risk of developing dementia down the line.”

This information is a little scary. I thought you nap when you’re tired or because you think it’s good for you and you sleep until you―well, wake up. I don’t set an alarm to wake up, I just do. After reading about ‘excessive napping,’ I’m happy I wake up no longer than an hour after I lay down.

Here’s a bit of good news:

· Researchers say people over age 60 who took afternoon naps performed better on cognitive tests than people who didn’t nap.

· Afternoon naps were defined as getting at least 5 consecutive minutes of sleep but no more than 2 hours, any time after lunch.

· Experts say afternoon naps benefit people of any age by resting the brain and clearing out our jumble of daily thoughts.

· One expert said the best nap is 10 to 30 minutes taken between 1 and 3 p.m.

· The…study found that the nappers scored “significantly higher” on the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), a standardized dementia screening test that includes assessments of visuospatial skills, attention span, problem-solving, working memory, locational awareness, and verbal fluency.

· Nappers and non-nappers alike — got an average of 6.5 hours of sleep nightly.

· Napping is great for improving mood, energy, and productivity while reducing anxiety and physical and mental tension.

“If you’re able to nap for a slightly longer period of time, say 60 minutes, evidence suggests that napping for this length can actually aid your learning,” Katherine Hall, a sleep coach at Somnus, a guided sleep therapy program, said. ‘…During this longer nap, your brain will start to transfer memories from your temporary holding facility — the hippocampus — to their permanent home, the cortex.’

What are the benefits of napping? According to the Mayo Clinic at

Napping offers various benefits for healthy adults, including:

· Relaxation

· Reduced fatigue

· Increased alertness

· Improved mood

· Improved performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory

Do Seniors Need Less Sleep? “When it comes to myths about sleep, this one refuses to nod off -- and stay asleep. Contrary to popular opinion, older people don't need less sleep than the average person. In fact, adults require about the same amount of sleep from their 20s into old age….”

“According to the National Institution on Aging, it is considered a myth that older adults require less sleep than younger individuals. Many older adults have a hard time getting the sleep they need, but that doesn’t mean they need less sleep. The amount of sleep that a person needs can decrease from infancy to adulthood, but this trend appears to stop around age 60. The National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that people over 65 should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.”

How much sleep should seniors get? “Sleep needs can vary from person to person, but in general, experts recommend that healthy adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours per night of shuteye.”


· Naps are good for you, but keep them under 90 minutes

· Seniors should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night

And we can now put this topic to bed.


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