Did you know that in some countries, an afternoon nap is part of the culture; to escape the afternoon heat, rest, and re-energize?
Unfortunately, in the US, more bound to our corporate lifestyles than our health, a mid-day nap is seen as a luxury and, in some cases, a sign of pure laziness.
However, science has found that a short nap in the middle of the day can not only provide rest but improve mood, physical performance, memory, and the ability to learn.
Whether you are finishing up a project for work or hunting for your livelihood, a nap can rekindle your alertness and have your neurons back up and firing on high in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.
Big name companies recognize this. Google and Apple are just a few that allow employees to have nap time. Studies have affirmed that short naps can improve awareness and productivity.
Benefits of napping
A 2009 study looked into the benefits of a mid-day nap for the purposes of learning and memory based on age, experience with napping, and timing and length of sleep. What they found is that once you get into the habit of napping, your naps become more beneficial and productive.
A study from the University of Colorado Boulder found that children who missed their afternoon nap showed less joy and interest, more anxiety, and poorer problem-solving skills than other children. The same can be seen in adults that benefit from napping.
Researchers with Berkeley found an hour nap to dramatically increase learning ability and memory. Naps sort of provide a reboot, where the short term memory is cleared out and our brain becomes refreshed with new defragged space.
So how long should you nap?
Experts say a 10 to 20-minute “power nap” is best for refreshing your mind and increasing energy and alertness. The sleep isn’t as deep as longer naps, which allows you to get right back at your day upon waking.
A 30-minute nap can lead to 30 minutes of grogginess, as you are often waking just as your body enters the deeper stages of sleep. You’ll experience some of that same fogginess if you sleep for an hour, but 60-minute naps are good for memory boosting.
The longest naps—around 90 minutes—are good for those people who just don’t get enough sleep at night. It’s a complete sleep cycle and can improve emotional memory and creativity.
A nap isn’t a good idea if it impairs night-time sleep.
A long period of sleep (usually at night) is critical for overall health. Your body needs the rest while the brain goes about its housekeeping to rid the body of toxins and store memories. If you take a nap too late in the day and it prevents you from falling asleep or sleeping long enough at night, any benefits it may lend are offset.
Early afternoon seems to be the best time for a quick doze. Find a quiet, dark, cool place and allow yourself to relax and rest during the day to stay on top of your game.