Over 60s who nap could be improving their cognitive health and making them mentally sharper, researchers have said.

Experts have been looking at the impact of taking a short sleep in the day.

The research team, led by Dr Lin Sun of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Center at Shanghai Mental Health Center and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, say those who rested their eyes for between 10 and 30 minutes performed better in cognitive tests when compared to those who stayed awake throughout the day.

The study, involved looking at the physical and mental health of just over 2,000 people aged over 60 who live in China. Among those volunteers, 1,534 took regular afternoon naps while 680 did not.

A dementia screening carried out on all of the participants found the nappers scored “significantly higher” on all the tests, which included attention span and problem-solving, when compared to those who did not rest in the day.

Speaking to HealthOnline, Davina Ramkissoon, wellbeing director of Zevo Healthand who was not involved in the study, said: “Napping helps your brain recover from burnout or overload of information.

“While taking naps, your brain clears out unnecessary information out of your brain’s temporary storage areas to prepare it for the new information to be absorbed.”

Fellow sleep expert Katherine Hall added: “If you are able to get a catnap in the afternoon, there are some great benefits to be had. The evidence suggests that napping is great for improving mood, energy, and productivity while reducing anxiety and physical and mental tension.

“If you’re able to nap for a slightly longer period of time, say 60 minutes, evidence suggests that napping for this length can actually aid your learning. As during this longer nap, your brain will start to transfer memories from your temporary holding facility — the hippocampus — to their permanent home, the cortex.”

She recommends the best time to nap is between 1pm and 3pm.

The study has been published in the journal General Psychiatry.

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