A nap is as good as a night

October 28, 2010 by
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

Napping. A topic that is very close to my heart. As can be seen by this photo, I’ve been napping since 1985. And if napping was good enough for Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, it’s good enough for me.

Research shows that an afternoon nap refreshes your brain and makes you more likely to learn new information. According to Nature Neuroscience, the learning of perceptual skills has been shown in some cases to depend on the plasticity of the visual cortex, which means how your brain changes, learns and remembers stuff. This is best achieved post sleep.

It was reported that sleep-dependent learning of a “texture discrimination task” can be accomplished in humans by brief (60−90 minute) naps containing both slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This nap-dependent learning closely resembled that previously reported for an 8 hour night of sleep in terms of magnitude, sleep-stage dependency and retinotopic specificity. Thus, from the perspective of behavioural improvement, a nap is as good as a night of sleep for learning during perceptual tasks.

But long naps have a temporary disadvantage: they cause what researchers call “sleep inertia”, a grogginess upon awakening that can last about half an hour. Also, long naps can affect the body’s clock, making it more difficult to wake up at the proper time in the morning. Therefore, speaking from vast experience, for optimal results I always found it better to set an alarm clock and nap for no longer than 15-30 minutes, depending on the deprivation of the night before or the pending task post nap.

Reference:

Mednick, S. et al. Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night. Nature Neuroscience. 2003. 6: 697-698.

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