Taking a Nap: Releasing the Stigma for Better Health
Are you a napper? If so, you’re in good company. Some famous historical figures, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Napoleon, John D. Rockefeller, and Thomas Edison were nappers, according to the Huffington Post. There has also been reports that Albert Einstein, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush were known to catch some short shut eye.
So, if you have an extra 10 minutes to spare, you might want to spend it taking a nap. A study conducted by researchers at Flinders University in Australia analyzed the benefits of taking a nap, including the ideal length of a nap for the most betterment. The findings, which are published in the research journal Sleep, revealed that a 10-minute nap rendered the most benefit in terms of cognitive performance and reduced sleepiness.
Benefits of Naps
Naps can enhance everyday functioning and revive alertness, and even boost your brain’s ability to learn. Naps also have the potential to reduce errors and accidents. Naps can not only make you feel more alert shortly after the siesta, but can also extend your alertness for several hours later in the day. For those who have been diagnosed with narcolepsy, sleep specialists, including those at The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, have prescribed scheduled napping, possibly even taking three or more scheduled naps per day, reports the New York Times. In terms of mood, naps can be a pleasant break, and a quick and easy way to get in some rejuvenation and relaxation into an otherwise busy, stress-filled day.
Negative Effects of Naps
Despite the benefits of taking an afternoon cat nap, there are some potential drawbacks to naps that you should be aware of. For one, when a nap lasts longer than 15 to 20 minutes, some people develop what is called sleep inertia. Sleep inertia makes a person feel groggy and disorientated, as if they had just awakened from a deep sleep. While the effects of sleep inertia typically last only several minutes to thirty minutes, it can be detrimental for those individuals who must function coherently immediately upon waking. Second, taking a nap too late in the day or for too long of a time period may adversely impact both the quality and length of nighttime sleep. If you are the type of person who has trouble sleeping at night, taking a cat nap during the daytime may only exasperate your sleep problems.
To get the most out of “nap time”, consider these simple napping tips:
- Keep your naps short. Aim for naps that are no longer than a half an hour. Ideally, keep your naps around 10-15 minutes. However, you can play around with different nap lengths to see the amount of time that makes you feel the most rejuvenated and alert, without feeling groggy after your nap.
- Take afternoon naps. Midafternoon is preferable for naps because this is the time that many people experience that post-lunch sleepiness.That’s one of the reasons why many cultures practice the afternoon siesta.
- Nap in a quiet environment. If at all possible, choose a dark, quiet place for an afternoon nap. If you can lie down in your own bed on your own comfortable mattress, that’s ideal.
- Allow some wake up time. Before fully engaging back into your everyday activities, allow yourself enough time to “wake up” and feel alert again after your nap.
While napping isn’t the best or readily-available option for everyone, for others a quick nap can do wonders to increase mental alertness and physical stamina.
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