Categories: Sleep Science

Health Benefits of Napping

If you’re like many individuals in today’s busy society, you aren’t getting enough rest. Whether you’re binge-watching TV into the early morning hours, have a newborn keeping you up all night, or your job calls for late-night shifts, you might be failing to reach the full recommended eight hours of sleep ― never mind being able to take time out for a quick nap. However, catching up with an afternoon nap can be beneficial for our health, both mentally and physically.



National Napping Day is Just Around the Corner

March 9, 2020 is National Napping Day. Yes, it’s a “thing”. This day is observed yearly, and falls on the day after the return of daylight savings time (DST). National Napping Day gives us the opportunity to take a nap, so we can catch up on that hour of sleep we lost because of the spring forward time change.

A professor at Boston University, William Anthony, Ph.D., and his wife Camille Anthony, invented this unofficial holiday in 1999. They wanted to provide people with education about how powerful a good nap could be, and also how even a little bit of rest can be essential to their health. The couple believed most individuals would be receptive to getting a little bit of shuteye after losing that hour of sleep time at the beginning of DST when their clocks “sprung forward”.

National Napping Day is typically observed the Monday following the beginning of DST to enable sleepers to become adjusted to their new schedule. To observe National Napping Day, all you have to do is take a restful nap ― and post the hashtag #NationalNappingDay on social media. So are you in?

Health Benefits of Napping

If you didn’t already know, a nap is simply a brief period of sleep you typically take during the day. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says all you need is a 20-minute nap to realize the benefits of napping. Some health benefits of taking a nap are:

1. Napping Recharges and Re-Energizes

Naps improve motor performance, and boost alertness, thereby making you feel energized after you take one. The benefits of your nap will depend on how long your nap is. A stage two nap (20-minute snooze) is great for enhancing attention and motor skills.

A 90-minute nap, however, brings on Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, helping make new brain connections, which can help in solving creative problems. Keep in mind, any nap over 20 minutes could result in you feeling groggy afterward. And, it’s a good idea to wake up from your nap no less than three hours before going to bed, says NSF.

2. Napping Boosts Your Mood

When you suffer from a sleepless night, chances are you find it difficult to feel “chipper” the following day. The good news is sneaking in a quick nap can help boost your mood, and eliminate this sleep-deprived irritability.

3. Napping is Good for Remembering Stuff

Napping helps boost mental function, and helps increase your ability to retain learned information. A nap helps to strengthen the neural connections that form your memories.

When you sleep, it can reactivate the areas of your brain that were involved in acquiring your memories, basically, “replaying” neural activity while you sleep. When this occurs, your memories are reinforced, and then transferred into the long-term brain storage areas. In fact, a German study found after the participants took a nap, they were five times better able at recalling random word pairs they’d learned.

4. Napping Helps You Learn New Skills

If you’re looking to become better at learning a new skill, you may want to consider taking naps more often. A study in 2006 separated participants into a couple groups, those who napped sporadically, and those who napped often.

Each group was allowed a nap before they were given a reading activity. Those who napped often did better with the reading and retention exercise. The researchers determined the frequent nappers’ brains better consolidated motor learning — a part of the new skill learning process.

5. Napping Boosts the Immune System

Sleep deprivation, especially chronic, repeated lack of sleep, can negatively impact your neuroendocrine and immune functions by raising cytokines (inflammatory molecules) and stress hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a 2015 study that restricted 11 healthy young men to a night of just two hours of sleep. Urine and blood tests measured higher levels of norepinephrine and cytokines in both groups that were sleep deprived.

The next day, one group was allowed to take two half-hour naps — the other didn’t take any naps. Urine and blood samples of the group that napped showed their norepinephrine and cytokines levels returned to normal as though they hadn’t lost any sleep that night.

6. Napping Helps Heart Health

Sleep isn’t just good for your brain; it’s good for your heart as well. Sleep has been called a “cardiovascular holiday”, since during restorative deep sleep, which includes naps, there’s an overall decrease in cardiovascular output. The “rest and digest” response (parasympathetic system) takes over instead.

One study involving Greek men found the men who took a nap regularly had a 37 percent less chance of dying from heart disease. Sleep deprivation can also cause risks to the heart; therefore, it makes sense that taking a nap can only benefit your health.

7. Napping Relieves Stress

Short, regular naps help lower stress and tension, thereby decreasing your heart disease risk. To benefit the most from your naps, do it properly. Take your naps during optimal hours — between 2:00pm and 3:00pm, for most people, reports The National Sleep Foundation. This is typically after lunchtime when your energy and blood sugar tends to dip. Make your naps brief, and to fall asleep faster, take your nap in a dark room.

By now you may be wondering how you can incorporate naps into your everyday routine. Getting enough sleep regularly is the best way to feel alert and feel your best. When you start feeling fatigue setting in, a quick nap can do a lot of positive good for your physical and mental stamina. Just remember to keep your naps brief, so you don’t feel groggy afterward.

What better way is there to nap? Why, on a new natural latex mattress from PlushBeds, of course!

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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