I have never been a good napper. It just always seems like there is way too much house to clean, kids to care for, and articles to write for me to stop what I'm doing and take an afternoon siesta. But it turns out that I might actually boost my brain power (and my efficiency) if I do just that.
A new study, produced by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that napping for an hour or so can refresh your brain, boosting your ability to learn. According to study author Matthew Walker, a psychology professor at Berkeley, "Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap."
For the study, 39 healthy young adults were divided into either a nap or no-nap group. At noon, all the participants were asked to tackle a learning task intended to exercise the hippocampus (the part of the brain that helps store fact-based memories.) Both groups performed at comparable levels on this test.
Then at 2 p.m., the nappers were allowed to take a 90-minute snooze (90 minutes!!) while the no-nap group stayed awake. At 6 p.m. on that same day, the participants performed a new round of learning exercises. Not surprisingly, the "non-nappers" didn't perform as well as the "nappers." In fact, those who napped did markedly better and actually improved their capacity to learn.
I have to admit, this research has motivated me to sleep ... or at least give it a try, although, I'm not sure I will ever be able to carve 90 minutes out of the middle of my day for napping. Do you think I'll be half as smart if I settle for 45 minutes? It's worth a try!