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Study shows morning naps can improve cognitive function

HEALTH & MEDICINEStudy shows morning naps can improve cognitive function

Contrary to popular belief, morning naps after waking up are not harmful to our body – argue scientists from Stockholm University. It turns out that a half-hour nap has no effect on sleep quality. Snoozing your alarm may even help in a gentler wake-up and translates into greater mental clarity immediately after getting out of bed.

Till now, morning snoozing was considered a harmful habit. It was believed that people who would set the snooze function several times in the morning were wasting time they could use for longer, quality sleep. While there are many studies devoted to daytime napping, science has not paid much attention to snoozing in the morning. The topic was tackled by scientists from Stockholm University who recently published the results of their research in the “Journal of Sleep Research”.

They conducted two studies. The first was a survey in which the scientists wanted to learn who uses naps, how often, and how long they last. Questions were asked to 1732 adults, of whom nearly 70 percent admitted that they at least occasionally use the function of setting multiple alarms on their device. Young people who went to bed late and complained about sleepiness in the morning were the most frequent users.

­­– In the survey, we also asked respondents why they use naps. If a given person admitted to having such a tendency, they were asked to provide a reason. We found that the most common reason for napping is that the person feels too tired to get up and wants to sleep longer. The next most frequently given reason was the pleasure derived from being able to stay in bed a little longer and wake up more slowly– says Tina Sundelin from the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University to Newseria Innovations agency.

For the second study, 31 people who regularly set morning naps were invited. Their average age was 27 years. The participants underwent an experiment in the sleep laboratory for two nights. On both nights, they spent the same amount of time in bed.

 One morning they could have a nap, and the next morning we wouldn’t give them that opportunity. We wanted to see if there were any differences in sleep quality and length and to what extent they were sleepy or awake in the morning after waking up. We found that a nap of about 30 minutes extended every 10 minutes does not negatively affect sleep or daytime functioning­­– explains Tina Sundelin.

Scientists observed that naps shortened sleep time by an average of 6 minutes, but did not affect its overall structure. The participants were also subjected to tests evaluating their cognitive abilities immediately after waking up (after a nap and without it) and 40 minutes later. When asked to describe their subjective feelings, they did not see a difference in their well-being. However, it turned out that after a nap they performed better in memory tasks, reaction time tests and mathematical calculations than when they got up with the first sound of the alarm. These positive effects were visible only immediately after getting out of bed. Tests carried out at later hours did not detect a difference between mental clarity after a nap and without it.

The actual average nap time interrupted by the alarm was 22 minutes. After silencing the alarm, participants fell into a lighter sleep than before. This means that they were not jolted out of deep sleep, but woke up in stages.

– We don’t want to say that naps are good for everyone — we would not recommend starting to practice napping to people who have not used them so far. However, we can say that if someone likes to have morning naps and has trouble getting up without them, they can most likely continue to use naps without harm to the body— concludes the psychologist from Stockholm University.

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