Napping midday can make you smarter

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists say taking a midday nap can make your smarter. They also say taking a one hour nap during the day can make it easier to learn new things.

Researchers from University of California, Berkeley find that cramming for tests by pulling all nighters decreases the ability to learn by forty percent, found in previous studies from the same team. Brain sluggishness from sleep deprivation makes it impossible to learn new facts, but a midday nap makes it significantly easier to get smarter.

"Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap," said Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at Berkeley. Napping clears the brain and makes room for storing more information.


"It's as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you're not going to receive any more mail. It's just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder," Walker said.

The research team plans to explore shorter sleep duration that occurs with aging as a possible cause for decreased ability to learn. There could also be a link between sleep and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found the reason for stage 2 non-REM sleep using electroencephalography to measure brain waves. Humans spend fifty percent of their sleep time between non-REM and deep sleep called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that results in dreaming. Napping in stage 2 non-REM sleep serves to refresh the memory, in turn making us smarter and better able to learn new things.

"I can't imagine Mother Nature would have us spend 50 percent of the night going from one sleep stage to another for no reason," Walker said. "Sleep is sophisticated. It acts locally to give us what we need."

Taking a midday nap can clear the brain – just like emptying out your e-mail inbox. The result is more brain capacity that can make us smarter. Taking a nap in the middle of the day is a common practice in tropical and subtropical countries, and the new research shows we all could benefit from a midday siesta. The findings were presented today at American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego, Ca.



Midday napping is one of my favorite activities. It helps to relax, recoup and rest your body and mind. I wish you can do this daily. Unfortunately I am not able to do this daily, but I wish I can find more time for prayer and daily nap.
Alex: I agree. Studies show this would be good for employee productivity even. I'm glad you take time to enjoy when you can. It is a healthy lifestyle practice. Thank you for your comment.