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Good News, Everyone! Daytime Naps Are Good for Your Brain
Grab your pillow!
Traveling to another star system is going to take a long time. The fastest spacecraft we’ve ever built, the Parker Solar Probe, travels roughly 430,000 miles per hour as it whips around the inner solar system studying the Sun (and hoping to prevent a technological apocalypse). If Parker could suddenly make a swift turn and carry that momentum toward Proxima Centaur, it would reach our stellar next door neighbor in a little less than 7,000 years.
In SYFY’s The Ark (streaming now on Peacock), those brave explorers have the benefit of another century of technological advancement, allowing them to make the trip in a thousandth of the time, roughly seven years. Still, that’s a long time to be stuck in traffic, so scientists cooked up stasis pods where the crew and passengers can nap until they reach their destination (granted, that doesn't exactly work out).
Daytime naps might be good for your health
We love a good nap, even (maybe even especially) when they happen on Earth. Now, researchers say that daytime naps might even be good for your health. Researchers found that people who take time for frequent daytime naps have brains 15 centimeters larger, on average, according to new research published in the journal Sleep Health. Larger brain volume is associated with delayed aging of between 2.5 and 6.5 years, as well as lower risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive conditions.
Studying the impact of napping over long periods of time presented a particular challenge for researchers because it’s not something which can easily be controlled in a lab. Instead, scientists relied on data from the U.K. Biobank, a huge biomedical database with information collected from more than half a million participants. For this study, researchers used DNA samples and brain scans from 35,080 people between the ages of 40 and 69. The DNA samples were used to identify genetic markers associated with napping, and brain scans were used to find any association between those markers and brain health.
The study demonstrates a causal link between napping and brain health, but it isn’t quite clear whether napping or brain health is in the driver’s seat. The Biobank also couldn’t provide information on the duration of napping, which could impact health outcomes. Bad news for the crew of The Ark One, and for us: Researchers recommend keeping naps to 30 minutes or less. Honestly, what’s the point? Besides being healthier and not dying, of course.
The study also comes almost a year after a previous study, which demonstrated that frequent daytime naps were associated with higher blood pressure and risk of stroke. That previous study also relied on data from the U.K. Biobank.
Maybe daytime napping is good for us and maybe it isn’t. Probably, we should sleep on it, just not for more than 30 minutes.
Catch the complete first season of The Ark, streaming now on Peacock!