Napping May Improve Learning, Memory
The Siesta & Go nap bar is the first of its kind to open in Madrid, Spain. (Photo/Siesta & Go)
From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle Report.
March 16 is International Sleep Day.
And we should all celebrate the act of sleeping. Studies have shown that a good night’s rest helps us stay healthy, both mentally and physically. And researchers say sleep is probably the best tool we have for memory and learning.
Michael Twery is director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at America’s National Institutes of Health. Twery is an expert on the science of sleep and sleep disorders. He told me that a good night’s sleep helps to learn better.
“Getting a good night’s sleep is important for the learning and memory process. It’s important because it stores the training exercises and the learning exercises into our more permanent memory while we’re sleeping 7-8 hours in bed. And then the next morning when you wake up your mind is better prepared to act on that information.”
But what about getting rest during the middle of the day? Short periods of sleep may help our brains work better, or so says a recent study on napping.
Past studies have shown that napping can help babies and young children learn better. And napping can help brain performance in older adults.
Taking a nap may also help this group of people fight off age-related memory loss.
FILE - Children take an afternoon nap at an orphanage in Harare, Zimbabwe, May 26, 2006.
Many Americans do nap. But one-third of all adults in the United States are also chronically tired, notes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It found that 50 million to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.
So, someone who naps as a way of paying off a sleep debt may not experience the same improvements from napping as a healthy, well-rested person would.
Also, many people may not want to admit that they take a nap. They may think that napping shows they are weak or lack energy. That only children, the very old, sick or lazy people nap is not an uncommon opinion.
In fact, we Americans sometimes do a very strange thing. Some brag about how few hours of sleep they need each night.
Health experts suggest that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. People who claim they only sleep five hours a night, they may think they are somehow stronger than the average human – superhuman, if you will.
However, that may be changing. Many offices now offer napping rooms and napping cafes are appearing in many U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C.
While resting in the middle of the work day may seem like a luxury to Americans, napping is very much part of a normal, everyday life in other parts of the world.
Muslim men nap as they wait for the time to break their fast after Friday prayer at the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, June 9, 2017.
The China sleep study
Take China, for example. While it depends on the age and job, China, generally speaking, is a land of nappers.
So, researchers recently looked at information provided by nearly 3,000 Chinese adults, aged 65 years or older. They wanted to learn if napping after a mid-day meal, a tradition in some areas, had any effect on the mental performance of the subjects.
First, the researchers asked the people if they napped and for how long. Then, based on their answers, researchers put them into four groups: non-nappers (0 minutes), short nappers (less than 30 minutes), moderate nappers (30-90 minutes), and extended nappers (more than 90 minutes).
Nearly 60 percent of those 3,000 people said they did take a nap after lunch and that their naps lasted anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. Most of the subjects who said they napped said they napped for about an hour.
The study found that people who took an hour-long nap did much better on mental tests than those who did not nap. The hour-long nappers also did better on the tests than those who napped for shorter and longer periods. In this study, it seems that the most effective nap lasted for about an hour, but not much longer.
These researchers reported their findings in the Journal of the American GeriatricsSociety.
Keep in mind, however, that these are the findings for those over the age of 65.
Yet Doctor Michael Twery notes that an hour long nap may be too long for young, healthy adults.
“Currently, we’re recommending that we try to sleep for about 30 minutes or less. And 30 minutes is enough to remove the pressure to sleep and will help us feel more awake. If we nap longer, we will get trapped into those deeper layers of sleep, which can be hard to get out of.”
The feeling Twery described is called sleep inertia -- the period when you awake from a very deep sleep. For a time, you are unable to think clearly.
“So sleep inertia is when someone is being awakened from deep sleep. Some individuals may find it hard to change instantly from that deep sleep – where everything is a bit foggy and confused – to the fully awake state. We may be a little bit clumsy. We may not have all our thoughts in order when we wake from deep sleep."
A delegate at Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference takingb a nap.
The National Sleep Foundation also warns that if you have trouble falling asleep at night, limit your daytime nap to under 45 minutes. Also nap before 3 p.m. in the afternoon.
And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo.
Are you a napper? Does your life style allow you to take a nap midday? Is napping common in your culture? Share your thoughts with us, we would love to hear from you.
Anna Matteo reported on this story for VOA Learning English using information from ScienceDaily.com, MedicalNewsToday.com and several health websites. George Grow was the editor.
Let us know in the Comments Section.
Words in This Story
nap – n./v. to sleep briefly especially during the day
chronic – adj. continuing or taking place again and again for a long time
lazy – adj. not liking to work hard or to be active
brag – v. to talk about yourself or your successes in a way that shows you are more important or better than other people
luxury – n. something that is helpful or welcome and that is not usually or always available
geriatric – adj. of or relating to the process of growing old and the medical care of old people
sleep inertia – n. the state of not being able to think or act clearly immediately after waking from sleep.
foggy – adj. unsure or confused
confused – adj. unable to understand or think clearly
Many people were shocked last week by news of the planned talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are supposed to meet by May.
Yet as of Monday, the Associated Press noted that North Korean media had yet to confirm the meeting. A South Korean spokesman said, “I feel they’re approaching this matter with caution and they need time to organize their stance.”
South Korea's National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, center, Cho Yoon-je, the South Korean Ambassador to the U.S., right, and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon, left, make an announcement about North Korea and the Trump administration last week.
Observers say the meeting has raised expectations of progress in resolving the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula. But they warn the process leading to removal of all nuclear weapons from the area is complex.
Can a deal be reached?
On Saturday, Trump said his talks with Kim could end with no agreement or they could be “the greatest deal for the world.”
Cheong Seong-chang is an expert on North Korea at the Sejong Institute in South Korea. He is hopeful about the meeting.
“It is expected that there will be more rapid progress regarding the freezing and dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program than in the past, as the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea will meet directly this time,” he said.
Experts suggest North Korea could offer to stop developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The country has said its missiles can hit the United States.
The experts believe that North Korea could announce an extension of its freeze on missile and nuclear tests. They also say the North could even offer to reduce the amount of nuclear materials it has saved for making nuclear weapons.
It is unclear what the U.S. government might offer in return. The Trump administration is concerned about offering help in exchange for promises. Officials note that North Korea failed to honor earlier agreements.
Experts suggest the U.S. would likely demand that international inspectors be given permission to verify any freeze or break up of the nuclear program. Only then, they say, would economic actions against the North be reduced.
However, the U.S. government would have to offer something that North Korea wants in return.
Go Myong-Hyun is a North Korea expert with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. He said, “In order to make the whole process successful, for which Donald Trump will be responsible, he would have to provide economic concessions.”
Both sides have acted to moderate the situation
North Korea and the United States have made the possibility of talks more likely by easing tensions.
The North Korean government has not tested nuclear weapons or long distance missiles since November of last year.
The U.S. side has dropped its condition that North Korea take real measures to end its nuclear program before talks can begin. The Trump administration, however, says its “maximum pressure” campaign will remain in place until a deal is reached.
The U.S. has led efforts in the United Nations Security Council to put in place sanctions that have cost North Korea billions of dollars in trade. Security Council measures also have punished individuals and companies linked to the North Korean government.
Concerns about North Korea’s true goals
Some experts are concerned that North Korea could be seeking to delay international action while strengthening its nuclear program.
A North Korean nuclear plant is seen before demolishing a cooling tower (R) in Yongbyon, in this photo taken June 27, 2008 and released by Kyodo. North Korea is to restart the mothballed Yongbyon nuclear reactor that has been closed since 2007.
Some experts think North Korea has from 13 to 30 nuclear weapons. The North continues to produce nuclear fuel, plutonium, at its Yongbyon nuclear center.
Experts say it could take years for inspectors to confirm that the production had been stopped. In that time, they say, North Korea could add to its nuclear weapons stockpile.
The Asan Institute’s Go Myong-Hyun said, “If North Korea can have nuclear weapons for the next 20 years in the process of nuclear disarmament, then North Korea becomes a de facto nuclear state.”
Many issues, sides to be considered
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is to hold talks with Kim Jong Un in April before the proposed meeting with the U.S. president
Moon and Kim are expected to talk about a proposal for restarting communications between the North and South Korean militaries. Other subjects for discussion include reunions for families separated by the Korean War and restarting humanitarian aid.
The Moon administration also may offer North Korea an economic deal tied to progress in denuclearization.
North Korean workers assemble jackets at a factory of a South Korean-owned company at the jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Complex, in Kaesong, North Korea, on Dec. 19, 2013.
The South Korean leader might offer to reopen the Kaesong industrial center, which was closed after a North Korean nuclear test in 2016. The factory complex provided jobs to thousands of North Koreans. The international community accused the North of using money from the complex for its weapons programs.
On Monday, South Korea’s national security adviser praised China, another country with an interest in the denuclearization talks.
The official, Chung Eui-yong, met with Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy adviser.
Chung said South Korean government officials “believe that various advances toward achieving the goal of peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were made with active support and contribution from President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government.”
Yang repeated China’s position that it wants denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and problems to be solved through talks.
A permanent peace?
In the past, North Korea has called for a permanent peace to replace the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War.
Cheong Soeng Chang spoke about the possibility of North Korea giving up its nuclear and missile programs. For that to happen, he said, “the United States will have to cease all joint South Korea-US military exercises, completely eliminate the international community’s sanctions on North Korea, and to accept establishing diplomatic ties between the US and North Korea.”
The United States and South Korea have said they oppose ending their long military alliance in exchange for the North’s denuclearization.
The U.S. military currently keeps about 28,000 soldiers and other armed forces members in South Korea.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Brian Padden reported this story for VOANews. His report includes information provided by Lee Yoon-jee. Mario Ritter adapted the report for Learning English. His story includes material from VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Chris Hannas. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
caution – n. care
stance – n. position
dismantle – v. to slowly bring something to an end
verify – v. to find out if something is true
concessions – n. giving up or allowing something in order to reach an agreement
maximum - adj. as great as possible; the most
sanctions – n. punishments usually in the form of trade restrictions meant to force a country to obey international law
de facto – adj. something that exists but is not officially recognized or accepted
advance – n. a step forward
contribution – n. something done to help bring about some result
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Prayut has not dismissed the report. And no government figures have clearly ruled out the possibility of the junta chief becoming involved with a party ahead of the next election.
However, the latest political development has in effect revived suspicion that the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) may be seeking to return to power after the next election, which is now expected to be held “no later than” February, as has most recently been promised by Prayut.
Observers and critics have pointed out that the NCPO and its organs, including the National Legislative Assembly, often acted in ways that were viewed as attempts to enable the junta to remain in power after the election.
If political history is any indication, such concerns are not beyond reality. Coup-makers in Thailand have often set up political parties and contested the following election, in apparent bids to extend their stay in power. Pro-military parties often succeeded in winning elections in the distant past, but not in the past decade, when they gained only a handful of House seats.
A man named Chuan Choojan has applied to establish a new party called Palang Pracha Rath (Power of the Public State) when the Election Commission (EC) began its pre-registration of parties on March 2. The term Pracha Rath resembles the name of the government’s development project that is being implemented all over the country.
Little known in the political arena previously, Chuan is a leader of the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market community in Bangkok’s Taling Chan district.
Chuan yesterday did not confirm or deny the report that his party was seeking to enlist Prayut as its chief adviser and prime ministerial candidate. He also thanked the media for reporting that a current Cabinet member was going to become its leader, but again did not confirm or deny it.
According to Chuan, the party will have members who are former MPs and ex-senators, whom he declined to identify. “We will wait until the EC approves our application for party registration,” he said.
Palang Pracha Rath is one of almost 50 new parties to be set up. And it is one of many parties that have promised to support Prayut’s return as prime minister after the election.
According to the new rules to be applied in the next election, Prayut could come back as government head through either of two channels. First, he could be nominated by a political party as its candidate. According to the election law, every party contesting an election needs to nominate no more than three candidates to become prime minister in a government that it forms after winning the election.
However, the party needs to get consent from that person to enrol him or her as its candidate and one person can be a candidate for only one political party.
Judging from his current status and duties, it is unlikely that Prayut – who is to take the caretaker role in the run-up to the election – will allow himself to become a candidate of any single political party in particular. He will probably not risk being singled out or even coming under attack by rival parties and politicians campaigning against his return to power. And his actions while serving as the caretaker prime minister would be viewed as being biased in favour of the party that nominated him as its candidate.
If Prayut actually wanted to come back as prime minister, he would almost certainly choose the second option.
According to the Constitution in effect since April last year, if the 500-member House of Representatives failed to reach an accord as to who should become prime minister, a decision would need to be made jointly by two Houses.
With involvement of the Senate, all of its 250 members selected by the NCPO, there is a high likelihood that Prayut would be nominated and voted to become the next prime minister.