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The Science of Napping: How a Quick Snooze Can Boost Your Brain

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Short midday naps boost memory and mood, with 20-30 minute naps deemed optimal for cognitive benefits, according to sleep scientists. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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Taking a quick nap in the middle of the day can do wonders for your mind, enhancing memory, cognition, and mood, scientists say.

Despite the stigma attached to napping in some cultures, including the U.S., more sleep scientists are finding benefits in a brief midday snooze. This shift in perspective is part of a broader understanding that sleep quality and duration are critical to public health, according to physiologist Marta Garaulet of the University of Murcia in Spain.

Research on napping has been mixed, with some studies linking it to health issues, particularly in older adults. However, recent studies have clarified that the type and duration of the nap matter. A nap of 20 to 30 minutes appears to be the sweet spot. The need for a nap is driven by two physiological processes: homeostatic sleep pressure, which increases the longer you stay awake, and circadian rhythms, which naturally induce sleepiness in the afternoon.

Short naps can significantly improve memory, information-processing speed, and vigilance, according to Michael Chee of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at the National University of Singapore. Even a brief 10-minute nap can refresh you, and if you nap a bit longer, the cognitive benefits last longer.

However, napping beyond 30 minutes can lead to grogginess upon waking and is associated with some health problems, such as obesity and high blood pressure.

Read more at Scientific American.

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