Research finds napping key to good mental health in elderly

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When people between the ages of 55 and 85 take time for a mid-afternoon siesta they generally do better on mental ability tests and can still maintain normal nighttime sleep habits, according to recently released research.

Study participants who napped in the afternoon got an average of one hour more of sleep each day, researchers said in the January issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. After napping, people performed better during tests of mental acuity, both that day and the day after, according to study results.

Researchers also found that people who napped slept just as well the night after as they did engaging in quiet activities during the late afternoon instead of napping.

Study author Dr. Scott S. Campbell, Weill Cornell Medical College, White Plains, NY, recommended napping from 30 to 120 minutes in the early afternoon in a dark, comfortable room, and awaken between 5 or 6 in the evening. He explained that napping does not seem to interfere with nighttime sleep because it is a "fundamental" part of our sleeping habits.