Interested in a quick, pleasant way to increase your energy, concentration, and creativity while lowering stress levels and boosting your mood? If so, look no further than a daily nap. Napping is all a part of self-care!
When the sun blazes and the humidex is on the rise, an afternoon nap might seem like the perfect way to escape and recharge—if only you had the time. But, despite what your boss might say, there’s no reason why napping should be an indulgence relegated only to your summer vacation. On the contrary, napping—done right—can be a powerful daily tonic that brings numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits, not to mention renewed energy for work. Follow these napping tips to seize the best mid-day snooze.
THE BENEFITS OF NAPPING
For a natural boost to your day, a nap is a hard thing to beat. Studies have shown that even a brief nap can reduce sleepiness and boost cognitive performance. Indeed, a study comparing the impact of naps to that of caffeine—the daily stimulant favored by 90 percent of North Americans—showed that napping was the winner when it came to improving declarative verbal memory (word recall) and procedural motor skills.
So the next time you find yourself reaching for the nearest cup of java to make it through the afternoon work meeting, maybe reach for an eyeshade and a pillow instead.
And the benefits of napping don’t stop there. Studies have also found that naps may improve mood, reduce stress on the immune system, lower frustration, and aid in consolidating memory, making it an ideal practice for students in particular. Shift workers and those suffering from severe sleep debt are also major beneficiaries.
Napping may even serve as something of a creative muse. In one study, researchers presented test subjects with a difficult computer game problem. After napping, the subjects were almost twice as likely to solve the problem compared to the non-napping control group, indicating that napping can be a significant aid to creative problem solving.
All told, napping can be a great, all-natural way to boost our energy, cognition, and emotional health. It’s high time we gave it a little respect.
WHEN NAPPING BECOMES EXCESSIVE
While the benefits of napping are abundant, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. One meta-analysis of napping studies found that while the risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality decreased among test subjects who napped for up to 30 minutes per day, rates of both increased among subjects who averaged more than 60 minutes. Elderly people in particular should be cautious about over-napping.
Bottom line: if you have erratic sleep patterns or find that you’re sleeping excessively during the day, seek advice from a qualified health professional to ensure there isn’t a larger health issue at play.
SO WHAT MAKES THE BEST NAP?
As we can see, not all naps are created equal. To get the most out of your nap, it’s best to follow a few basic rules.
KEEP IT SHORT
The Canadian Sleep Society recommends keeping naps to between 10 and 20 minutes per day to avoid negatively affecting nighttime sleep. Naps that extend beyond 30 minutes can also lead to excessive sleep inertia (grogginess) after waking.
KEEP IT REGULAR
While researchers do not claim a cause-and-effect relationship, it is interesting to note that habitual nappers appear to experience less post-nap sleep inertia than non-habitual nappers, making for an easier and quicker transition back to the tasks of the day. Regular nappers may also be better able to consolidate motor learning during naptime.
KEEP IT EARLY
Our circadian rhythms will dictate the best time of day to nap, but early afternoon is generally the most favourable time for a quick snooze.
Lying down to nap may be difficult in a work setting (unless you’re Don Draper or have a roll-out mattress under your desk). Nevertheless, a study on the subject found that although it’s beneficial to nap both lying down and upright in a chair, you’ll gain more by lying down.
No matter what your situation—whether you’re at home, on the go, or at a forward-thinking workplace—a brief 10- to 20-minute daily nap can have an outsized impact on your health and well-being.
Now, while the sun is shining, the nearest hammock might be a good place to give it a try
Written by Bill Richeter Alive