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Bringing Back Naptime
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If you’re an adult you probably remember hating naptime when you were a kid. You may have fought it with everything in you because naptime meant missing out on something exciting. But recent research shows that naptime may be making a comeback.1

Although the findings are preliminary, it looks as though a lengthy afternoon nap prepares the brain to remember things. It’s similar to rebooting a computer in order to get it to run more smoothly.

“Sleep is not just for the body. It’s very much for the brain,” says Matthew Walker, an assistant at the University of California at Berkley, and author of the study. For the study, Walker and his colleagues divided 39 young adults into two groups. Participants took part in two memory exercises. At noon all took part in an exercise that required them to remember faces and link them with names. Another exercise was taken at 6 p.m. after 20 had napped for 100 minutes.

Ability to Learn Declines

Not surprisingly, those who didn’t nap performed 10 percent worse on the test, compared to those who did nap. This is even more impressive considering the fact that people’s ability to learn declines 10 percent between noon and 6 p.m. So the nappers reversed the decline. Evidentially, it’s during the phase of non-dreaming sleep nappers go through that boosts their memory.

“This is further evidence that sleep plays a critical role in the processing of memories,” Walker said. “It provides more evidence that it's not just important to sleep after learning, but you need it before learning to prepare the brain for laying down information.”

Not just college students can benefit from a good nap. Jessica Payne, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, says that people who are aging and struggling from memory loss can find the benefits of sleep. Additional research shows that sleep can help us think with more creativity, have better long-term memories, as well as preserve the ones important to us. She said that the study findings “really add to something we already know about why sleep is important.”

So naptimes may be helpful again after all—especially when you’re in a learning mode. Now to just find the time….

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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