The Power of Naps

August 20, 2014

The Power of Naps

As a kid, naps are a must — no one wants to tangle with a crabby three-year-old who’s missed his afternoon siesta. Once we hit adulthood, these daily time-outs take a back seat to busy schedules. Napping is often deemed as an activity for the lazy — those who can’t hack powering through the day purely on adrenaline and caffeine. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, we’ve got it all wrong.

Nature and napping

A whopping 85 percent of mammals sleep for short periods over the course of the day. Humans are one of the few groups in this species that divide their day between waking and sleeping time. The funny thing is, there’s no hard evidence that this clear delineation is actually in our nature. In fact, when you weigh the pros and cons of napping, quite the opposite is true.

Reasons to nap

A quick bout of shut-eye can refresh, rejuvenate, and even combat those dreaded under-eye circles. But did you know that napping can also make you smarter? According to Barking Up The Wrong Tree, naps boost learning, improve reaction time, and boost performance quality.

Feeling cranky? Don’t power through — take a nap. Even a fast power nap can brighten your mood. If that isn’t convincing enough, consider this: Sleep deprivation is bad for your health. If you’re not getting eight to 10 hours of slumber per night you may need to make up for it during the day — in 2007 researchers at the University College London published research concluding those who slept two hours less than the amount they required doubled their risk for an early death.

Smart napping

Before you make big plans for a three-hour afternoon siesta, know this: Shorter naps provide more benefits. In fact, long naps or naps taken late in the day can actually mess up your sleep cycle. Lifehacker (via The Wall Street Journal) provides a nifty breakdown of nap duration versus need:

– 10 to 20 minutes is a great for increasing alertness and boosting energy.

– 60 minutes is the perfect amount of time to up your learning capabilities as it helps improve memory. Beware, though — a nap this long can leave you feeling groggy for a few minutes post wake-up.

– 90 minutes gives you a full cycle of sleep, improving your mood, memory, dexterity, and creativity. Oddly, you won’t wake up feeling as groggy as you would with a 60-minute nap.

Create a nap space

Your kid may be able to fall asleep in his stroller while being pushed through the din of the local mall. You, on the other hand, need a quiet, dark, comfortable space to catch some zzz’s. If you’re at home, the best place to nap is obviously the bedroom. Draw the curtains, get under the covers, and set your alarm.

If you’re at work, catching an after-lunch nap may be a little bit harder. Those with a couch in their office have it made — this is the perfect place to take a short siesta. You can also nap with your head on your desk or even sneak off for a quick nap in the back seat of your car. Ear plugs and a sleep mask are a must for napping outside the home. You can also quell the office din by playing white noise or a soundtrack of soothing nature-scapes.

If falling asleep isn’t your forte, don’t force it — it’ll only make you frustrated. Instead, take a few minutes to wind down and prepare for your nap. It sounds totally silly, but writing down all of your worries, engaging in five minutes of meditation, or counting backwards from 100 can actually make the act of falling asleep a whole lot easier.

Happy napping!

Megan Mostyn-Brown

Megan Mostyn-Brown

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