The routine nap is common place for children, but somewhere along the way most people grow out of the habit of taking a daily nap. In many cases, adults who take regular naps are looked upon as lazy or unhealthy. New research about the vast benefits of regular napping is shifting the way our culture sees the afternoon nap. In a recent UC Berkeley sleep study researchers found that to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage and make room for new information humans need sleep. “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, the lead investigator of these studies and the assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. Over the past several years, various researchers have concluded that fact-based memories are stored temporarily in the hippocampus before being sent to the brain’s prefrontal cortex where it’s believed that the brain has more storage space. Walker explained that “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.” “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. Sleep is sophisticated. It acts locally to give us what we need,” said Walker. Napping can be seen as less a lazy person’s pass time, and more a scientifically supported way of improving one’s learning ability, as well as their general well being. Now let’s all go take a nap.
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