Scheduling in an hour long snooze not only feels great, it actually makes you a little bit smarter, according to new research. And sleep deprivation drops mental performance, making all-night cramming sessions counterproductive.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley presented their preliminary findings about naps and brain function on Sunday, Feb. 21, at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego, Calif.
Comparing the effect of naps and no naps on brain function
In the study, 39 healthy young adults were divided up into those who took an afternoon nap at 2pm and those who didn’t.
At noon, before nap time, everyone participated in a learning task designed to make use of the brain area where fact-based memories are stored, the hippocampus. At 2pm, the nappers slept for 90 minutes while the others stayed awake. At 6 pm they all tried another learning task. The nappers did significantly better than the non-nappers and even surpassed their earlier performance.
How long should you nap for optimal performance?
According to the study, a nap of 90 minutes was sufficient to boost memory and performance on learning tasks. But any amount is probably beneficial.
Cramming during an all-nighter counterproductive to good grades
In other findings by the same team, pulling an all-nighter was found to decrease the brain’s ability to learn new facts by almost 40 percent.
Naps effects last until tomorrow
Other studies on napping and brain function have found that, contrary to many people’s worries, naps taken during the day don’t affect that evening’s sleep quality or quantity and actually help boost mental performance the next day. Naps also seem to solidify long term memories in the brain.
So if you’re looking for an excuse to take an afternoon siesta, or want to justify your already healthy napping habit, just tell everyone that you’re boosting your brainpower by setting aside 90 minutes of your day to sleep.
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