Napping associated with higher brain volume, reveals new study

And sleeping less than the recommended seven hours is fine!
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of a woman napping.jpg
Representational image of a woman napping.


Two new studies on sleep published this month are revealing that getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep may not be as harmful as previously thought and that napping may contribute to a higher brain volume.

This is according to an article by the CBC News published on Wednesday.

The first study published Monday in the Journal of Neuroscience examined how brain function is affected by sleeping for shorter times at night.

The work indicated that people who sleep less than six hours a night but have no daytime drowsiness or sleep disturbances had larger regional brain volumes compared to people who sleep seven to eight hours, or those who report sleep issues.

It’s therefore not about quantity of sleep but quality.

"If you find your sleep pattern to be good for you, then I think that's all right," told the news outlet Dr. Elliott Lee, a sleep specialist at The Royal, Ottawa's mental health center.

That opinion was echoed by Dr. ​​Ram Randhawa, a psychiatrist with the University of British Columbia's sleep disorders program. "My best advice is don't worry. … Step back from all of this news; stop being so fixated on sleep performance," he told CBC News. 

"Don't judge your sleep based on some measure of what the perfect or ideal sleep should be. Everyone's different."

Sleep experts interviewed by CBC News also touted the many benefits of napping.

Dr. Brian Murray, the head of neurology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences in Toronto, noted that daytime naps may help with cognition in people learning new things.

"People can practice learning a new skill all day, and then they take a nap and they get way better. So there is something about sleep that helps consolidate and organize the brain," he said.

Larger brain volume

This correlates with a study published June 19 in the journal Sleep Health which found a modest link between a larger brain volume and people who reported napping regularly.  

The research "could suggest that napping regularly provides some protection against neurodegeneration by compensating for poor sleep," the researchers wrote.

However, if napping does not come naturally, experts say you shouldn’t force it.

"The people who are napping are napping … not only because they want to, because it's a preference or a choice, but also because they find it relaxing, they find it enjoyable, they find it restorative," Randhawa told CBC News.

"If you try to force yourself to nap, it just leads to you lying in bed frustrated."