Posted on 6/25/2023 8:29 PM
São Paulo – British and Uruguay researchers indicated, in a study published in the scientific journal Sleep Health, that taking a nap during the day can help maintain brain health and prevent dementia. They found a “modest causal relationship” between napping and increased brain volume.
To come to this conclusion, researchers from University College London (UCL) and University of the Republic in Uruguay analyzed data from more than 378,000 people, aged 40 to 69, from the UK Biobank Study. They compared measures of brain health and cognition in individuals “genetically programmed” to nap with those who lacked the genetic variants that characterize the habit.
To the UCL portal, lead author of the research, PhD student Valentina Paz, said that this is the first research “to attempt to unravel the causal relationship between habitual daytime naps and cognitive and structural outcomes for the brain.” “I hope that studies like this, which show the health benefits of short naps, will help reduce any stigma that still exists around them,” said Victoria Garfield, senior author.
In the article, the researchers explain brain volume decreases as we age. A previous meta-analysis showed that in healthy people, after age 35, contraction is constant, at rates of 2% per year, which accelerates by age 60. Assuming this linear decline, the researchers found differences of between 2.6 and 6.5 years between those. who were genetically programmed to take naps and who were not.
Those “years saved,” they wrote, could equal the difference between the brain volume of someone with normal cognitive function and mild cognitive impairment. “Understanding this difference has important clinical implications for preventing age-related cognitive impairments, especially if it is generalizable to the entire population,” the article says. One limitation of the new study is that it only sampled people of European and white descent.
In this sense, the scientists explain that measurements of brain volume have been used as indicators of neurodegeneration. Brain shrinkage is accelerated in people with cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. Other research has already looked at how sleep problems can negatively affect these structural changes. “According to these studies, we found an association between regular daytime napping and increased total brain volume, which may indicate that regular napping provides some protection against neurodegeneration by compensating for the lack of sleep,” they wrote.
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