We all need sleep—but we don’t all get enough of it. This has led to a trend at spas: sleep sessions in a peaceful room or after a massage appointment.
New research shows a midday nap boosts the brain’s learning capacity.
The research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that an hour’s nap can dramatically boost and restore your brain power, according to a university press release. The findings suggest that a biphasic sleep schedule not only refreshes the mind, but can make you smarter.
“Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap,” said Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and the lead investigator of these studies.
In the recent UC Berkeley sleep study, 39 healthy young adults were divided into two groups—nap and no-nap. At noon, all the participants were subjected to a rigorous learning task intended to tax the hippocampus, a region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels.
At 2 p.m., the nap group took a 90-minute siesta while the no-nap group stayed awake. Later that day, at 6 p.m., participants performed a new round of learning exercises. Those who remained awake throughout the day became worse at learning. In contrast, those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn.
Walker and his team will go on to investigate whether the reduction of sleep experienced by people as they get older is related to the documented decrease in our ability to learn as we age. Finding that link may be helpful in understanding such neurodegenerative conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, Walker said.