Friday, March 3, 2017 92 Comments
Our Brains are not Designed
to Learn Non-Stop
Sleep is essential for memory & learning
National Sleep Awareness Week Post — March 2 – 9
Sleep is more important than you think
According to new studies,
that is probably a lousy idea.
Researchers have already shown that, following a good night’s sleep, facts learned one day are retained better the next, in learners both young and old.
It is looking like midday naps, discovered to be essential for brain development in infants, perform the same memory-enhancing function for toddlers and young children as a good night’s sleep for teen and adult learners.
Naps appear to help memory and learning
A study published in PLOS ONE suggests that a little snooze in the middle of the day may help kids retain information they learned earlier the very same day.
[Laura Kurdziel et al., Sleep spindles in midday naps enhance learning in preschool children]
To repeat what I disclosed in an earlier article, Emotional Mastery to help us move forward:
Sleep has been proven to play a critical role in both physical and mental well being. Sleep deficiency is not only associated with physical disease, but also with a range of emotional disturbances from subtle to dramatic.
A great many important functions take place while our brains sleep — such as the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels, as well as the brain’s housekeeping chores, when memories are consolidated and debris is swept away with the help of glial cells.
Other related neurodiversity posts:
You Don’t Want to Pay the Interest Charges on Sleep Debt
Sleeping with the Enemy: Mom’s N-24
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Preschool Z’s Make Good Memories
In the above titled article and podcast on the Scientific American site, Sophie Bushwick, a Senior Editor at Popular Science, reported on a particular study looking at how naps affected the academic performance in children between the ages of 3 and 6.
The study found that preschoolers who take a midday nap better retained recently learned information.
About the Study
Researchers taught 40 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 6 to perform a memory task, followed by a break of several hours. After the break, the children were divided into two groups, one remaining awake or the other encouraged to nap. The nap group slept for about an hour and a quarter — an average of 77 minutes.
Later in the day, both groups were tested to see how much they had retained.
Although the brief nap appeared to make little difference in the children’s feelings of sleepiness, it did help enhance their memories. The children who had rested performed better.
Even more interesting was the finding that the children who had napped after the initial lesson retained more information the following day than those who had not.
NOT just for Kids
A recent study reported on ScienceDaily on January 5, 2017, suggests that, upon retiring, so-called Seniors might also benefit from an hour-long midday nap.
It is looking like naps might well help deal with the short-term memory deficits accompanying what is often referred to as age-related cognitive decline.
To learn whether taking an afternoon nap had any effect on mental health, researchers examined information provided by nearly 3,000 Chinese adults aged 65 and older. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Study participants who took an hour-long nap after lunch did better on mental tests, compared to those who did not nap.
Those who napped for about an hour also did better
than those who took shorter or longer naps.
People who took no naps, short naps, or longer naps experienced decreases in their mental ability that were about four to six times greater than people who took hour-long naps.
Get this: the people who did not nap, and those who took shorter or longer naps, experienced about the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to produce.
About the Study
Nearly 60% of the study participants reported that they napped in the afternoon, after lunch. Their naps lasted between about 30 minutes to more than 90 minutes, with the majority of them taking naps lasting about an average of 63 minutes.
The participants took several tests to assess their mental status.
They first answered straightforward questions — like the current date, the season of the year, and so forth — and then were asked to do some basic math problems.
They were also asked to memorize and recall words, and to reproduce drawings of simple geometric figures.
Finally, they were asked questions about their napping and nighttime sleep habits to put the memory data in context.
Given the size of the study compared to studies of smaller populations, these findings are extremely encouraging as to reliability.
Edited Summary from “Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings From the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) Baseline Assessment” — appearing online in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Implications for ALL of us
I want to point out that younger and older participant groups are the ones that have been studied. The results DO NOT indicate that naps would not be equally useful for individuals outside the age ranges reported.
I would encourage anyone who has some scheduling flexibility – college students, entrepreneurs, and anyone able to retire at a younger age, for example – take the findings above as encouragement to adjust your schedule to allow for a midday nap.
And don’t forget that “mid-day” may not be the same time for everyone.
If YOUR daily schedule is not typical, your nap timing won’t be either.
NOT what was previously thought
You probably have read or heard that napping impacts night time sleep negatively. That is likely to turn out to be old news. The studies above seem to indicate that a nap of no longer than approximately an hour, and in the middle of the day, has no negative effect and may well turn out to be extremely beneficial.
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