Napping May Increase Focus

By: Jenna Savage

College students have a lot on their plates – classes, extracurricular activities, internships, and even jobs. With homeworking and studying taking up their free time, sometimes it’s difficult to for students to get a full night’s rest. And while sacrificing sleep in favor of studying isn’t the best idea, as we’ve explained in the past, sometimes it happens – especially before finals and project deadlines. The question, then, is whether or not napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep. Up until now, the issue has been debated, with some scientists feeling as though naps are beneficial and others warning people off of them. However, new research has come to show that napping may actually help people focus, reports a PsychCentral article.

According to Georgetown University Medical Center research presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual neuroscience meeting, when people nap, the right part of their brains are active. This hemisphere spends nap time communicating with itself and with the left hemisphere of the brain. This means that the right hemisphere utilizes nap to function – but exactly what it does during those nap time sessions is still under study.

To measure brain activity, researchers had participants wear near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) caps that delivered infrared light into the brain and then measured the amount of light that bounced back. It also illuminated areas of activity and increased oxygen in the blood. This allowed researchers to determine which parts of the brain were active during rest, and how those different parts of the brain interacted as a network.

Currently, we know that the right hemisphere of the brain is responsibility for applying creativity to tasks, storing information, and daydreaming, which – as we have mentioned in a previous article – can improve focus and attention. It is possible that during naps, the brain may be organizing information and arranging data. These activities have the potential to make people feel more focused and refreshed upon waking.

Unfortunately, the researchers don’t have all of the answers yet. At this point, they can only theorize about what is taking place in the right hemisphere during napping. It will take more research studies to uncover exactly how naps benefit the brain and why the right hemisphere is more active than the left during rest. However, this research study has set the foundation for future insight into the topic, so scientists will be able to take a closer look at the function of napping.

The study also provides good news for students – if you feel like napping, it may not be such a bad idea after all.