Previously, accepted wisdom was that older people needed less sleep than did younger adults—largely because they slept about two hours less at night than they’d used to when they were younger.
Experts now say that regardless of age, we typically need seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep to function well. A study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College concluded that napping increases older persons’ total sleep time, provides measurable cognitive benefits—without daytime drowsiness or disruption of nighttime sleep.
Their study was small but well-designed, involving 22 physically and mentally healthy women and men, ages 50-83.
Prior to an initial laboratory session, the participants kept sleep logs at home and wore monitors to track nighttime movements. They then spent 3 nights and 2 days in a sleep laboratory for a thorough examination involving polysomnography and a battery of cognitive tests.
They were sent home to start a month-long daily napping routine. Half took 45-minute naps, and half took two-hour naps. They returned to the lab for repeat assessments after the second and fourth weeks.
Total sleep time had increased for all participants. Napping increased their time spent in slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, which play important roles in restoring the body and brain. Both those taking 45-minute naps and 2-hour naps showed significant improvement on three of the four tests in the study’s cognitive-assessment tests.
It’s not clear whether napping would prove beneficial to older adults with medical conditions or sleep disorders. What is clear, though, is that daily naps benefit healthy older adults.
My Take on napping: I have a daily siesta when I turn off the phones, prepare my lunch, read a while and then nap a while. I go to bed early and enjoy waking up early to get busy on whatever work or play I want to accomplish for the day.
When I wake up after an afternoon nap, it’s as though I had 2 mornings in the day: I’m ready to get working or playing again.
from Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, May 8, 2012 Study published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, February 2011