In our society, naps are not generally looked on as beneficial. We tend to feel lazy if we lie down for a little while during the day and allow ourselves to doze off. Many people feel the need for a nap, but don't feel like they can justify it.
Taking a rest during the day is considered normal in many cultures, and some companies are beginning to realize the benefits of allowing their workers to take naps. In Japan, many workplaces have nap rooms or nap pods that are available for their employees to use during their lunch hour or other break periods. This practice has been adopted by large companies such as Nike and Google. Parts of other countries such as India, China, Germany, and Spain have a traditional rest period following the mid-day meal. In some places, the shops close and people refrain from using telephones during the rest period. Several famous people have admitted to taking regular naps to improve their abilities. The list includes Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, Thomas Edison, and many more. So what do all of these people and cultures know that we don't? Here are some of the benefits you may see from regular napping.
Benefits of Napping
Being overly stressed can make us feel overwhelmed. Taking a break from all of the things that are causing you stress and closing your eyes for a little while every day can help you to manage things more easily and calmly.
Increased Productivity, Creativity, and Focus
Here is one you can take to your boss to justify a nap! We all have those moments when we have low energy. It is harder to get work done, thoughts seem to blend into one another, and it is more difficult to stay focused on one task. Taking 20 minutes or so to give your brain and eyes a rest can help. After a nap, people tend to be better able to focus on tasks and ideas. This makes it easier to get work done.
This one is simple, when you are better able to focus, you are more likely to remember things. If you have an important test to study for, try taking a power nap before studying. Your greater ability to focus on what you are studying can help you to retain the information better, and recall it more easily.
This one may seem a bit obvious, but taking a nap every day can help to boost your energy. When you are feeling tired and sluggish, especially after a meal, laying down for a rest can boost your energy. If you feel tired during the day, don't be afraid to give into it for a short amount of time. You should feel better afterward.
There are a couple ways that napping can help to maintain a healthy weight. First of all, we tend to get tired after a meal, particularly when we try to work after lunch. Resting for 15-20 minutes can give you a chance to digest and absorb nutrients better. The other reason napping is helpful in weight management is that when we get tired, we tend to reach for snacks and drinks that are full of sugar and caffeine. These are generally unhealthy choices, and by napping, you don't feel the need for an energy boost, so you are more likely to avoid unhealthy snack choices.
A study was done in Greece about napping for heart health. A large number of men were divided into groups. One group took 30 minute naps every day and the other didn't. When coming up with the final numbers, lifestyle was taken into account. High-risk factors such as smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle etc. were considered. For the men with healthy lifestyles, the group that took naps everyday were 37% less likely to die of heart related illness.
The results are interesting, but why is napping good for the heart? A lot of heart conditions are worsened or triggered by stress. The reduction in stress from just a 30 minute nap helped to prevent a significant amount of heart problems.
How to take a nap
While napping may seem fairly straight forward, here are a few suggestions for optimizing your mid-day rest.
When taking a nap, you will benefit most if you are able to rest undisturbed. Try to find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed by other people or phones. Other people can be present, as long as they are quiet and won't bother you.
Try to find a place with a comfortable temperature. The best temperature for sleeping is generally between 68 and 72 degrees F.
Dim lighting is best. Try to nap in a space with low or natural lighting, and no lights shining directly on your face. You can also try wearing an eye mask if you can't find a darkened space.
Different lengths of rest have different benefits. Try to time your nap so that you get the benefits you are looking for. Make sure to set an alarm for the right amount of time to prevent over sleeping which can lead to grogginess. Wait to set your alarm until you are feeling nice and relaxed, or set it for an extra 5 minutes or so to give you time to get to a relaxed state.
Under a minute: It's not ideal, but just resting your eyes for a few seconds can help you to regain focus and feel more alert. It is especially beneficial for these short bursts to put the palms of your hands over your eyes.
2-5 minutes: While short, this length of time can be beneficial for ridding yourself of sleepiness.
10-20 minutes: This is a good length for a power nap if you can get it. 10-20 minutes is great for improving your alertness, staving off sleepiness, sharpening your focus, and boosting your energy. It is also short enough that you won't enter into a heavy sleep, which means that you shouldn't feel groggy afterward.
60 minutes: An hour long nap can definitely be beneficial, but it isn't ideal. Because you have entered into a deeper sleep, you are more likely to feel groggy afterward, and may even get a headache. This is often known as a nap hangover.
90 minutes: A 90 minute rest is much better for you than an hour as you will have a chance to complete a full sleep cycle. By not rousing yourself in the midst of a REM cycle, you should avoid that groggy, hungover feeling that you get from a 60 minute nap. A 90 minute nap is great for helping improve your memory, and is especially useful in healing because of the hormones that are release during deeper sleep. If you are trying to recover from an injury or illness, 90 minutes is the perfect amount of time for a nap if you can get it.
The best time to take a nap is generally after lunch, or between 1:00 to 3:00 PM. Try to avoid caffeine and sugary or fatty foods just before resting. Instead try to eat something that is rich in protein and calcium to promote a better quality of sleep.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.