Napping boosts sleep and cognitive function in healthy older adults

With age come changes in the structure and quality of our sleep. After about age 60, we have less deep (slow-wave) sleep and more rapid sleep cycles, we awaken more often, and we sleep an average of two hours less at night than we did as young adults. It was once thought that older people didn't need as much sleep as younger ones, but experts now agree that's not the case. Regardless of age, we typically need seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep to function at our best. So if you're not getting enough sleep at night, what about daytime naps? Or does napping disrupt the sleep cycle, ultimately yielding less sleep and more daytime drowsiness?

These questions were addressed in a study by researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in White Plains, N.Y., and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (February 2011). The authors concluded that napping not only increases older individuals' total sleep time — without producing daytime drowsiness — but also provides measurable cognitive benefits.

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