Most of us have long known how beneficial a good nap can be when it comes to feeling more rested after a sleepless night. But did you know about the hidden benefits of napping, such as boosted creativity, increased intelligence, and even a longer lifespan?Napping is gaining traction as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, with major companies like Google providing areas where employees can snooze during their work days, helping the team to become more productive and efficient by resting.We’re going to take a look at the science of what makes taking naps such an important part of improving our health and well-being, as well as how to nap smarter and easier.
Why is Napping Necessary?
In this day and age, it might seem like taking a nap is a luxury you can’t afford. But for some of us, napping is a necessity when it comes to performing at our peak, both mentally and physically.Whether you feel as if you have time for an afternoon siesta or not, napping seems to be something that our bodies crave, at one time or another in our lives. Let’s delve into the reasoning behind the need for a nap.
Missing Out on Sleep
You’ve probably already guessed that not getting enough sleep is the number one reason many of us crave a good nap. While everyone is different when it comes to how much sleep they need, the National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of 7 hours each night for adults.Unfortunately, many of us aren’t even coming close to getting enough rest, and that lack of sleep can leave us feeling way off our A-game and have our bodies crying out for some rest in the middle of the day.
Our Genetic Programming
As human beings, our bodies are designed to be alert during the day and to sleep at night. That natural phenomenon is known as the circadian rhythm, which is our internal body clocks letting us know when it’s time to sleep. Part of that rhythm is known as the “afternoon slump,” when our bodies tell us it’s time to slow down and take a rest.
Not Eating Right
Another reason for feeling sleepy in the middle of the day is a lack of optimal nutrition, which includes not getting enough of the foods that promote sleep on a regular basis. If you are choosing meals that are heavy on protein or carbohydrates, what you eat could be what’s causing you to feel sluggish before your day is done.You might also be tired in the afternoon due to low blood sugar, thanks to not eating enough at lunchtime to help you power through your day and make it to dinner. If you’re snacking on sugary treats throughout the day, you could also be crashing after you’ve digested what you’ve been nibbling on. Not good!
It’s a Matter of Survival
As mankind developed over time, our bodies adapted to our needs to keep us alert and ready to survive as a species. Although we’re no longer hunters or gatherers, we can still benefit from the evolutionary changes that were brought about in ancient times.Many of our ancestors found that resting during the heat of the day boosted their reaction times, helping them to stay watchful and ready for an attack, or to stay focused while they hunted for their meals.We may not have to worry about wooly mammoths or rivaling tribes anymore, but the modern man still craves that afternoon siesta, and it’s been found that even a short nap of 15 or 20 minutes can greatly increase our ability to process thoughts and tackle whatever the day throws at us.
Why is Napping Beneficial?
Now that you know why your body longs for a snooze during the day, it’s time to look into what benefits you’ll receive by giving in to temptation and taking a siesta, instead of putting it off in favor of typing up that report.
You might not think sleeping on the job is your best career move, but there are some big companies out there, including the Huffington Post and Apple, that disagree wholeheartedly. Many employers are now not only allowing napping in the workplace, they’re encouraging it by creating nap rooms for members of their team.This is because power naps during the workday have been scientifically proven to increase productivity in corporate environments, turning afternoon siestas into a serious boost in both production and company morale.Enhanced Mental FunctioningIt’s been shown that being well-rested can seriously improve cognitive function, which means that taking a snooze can give you a big advantage in class, when learning a new skill, or while making a presentation at work. Taking even a short rest of under an hour can help you to learn and retain information much better than you would if you were sleep deprived, due to the fact that sleep cleanses our short-term memory, leaving room for new info to take its place.
Studies have shown that napping builds your creative muscles by increasing the variety of memory that helps us to see the big picture. Most people reported the biggest boost from naps that are 90 minutes in length but even short snoozes of under 30 minutes can have a seriously beneficial impact on creativity levels.
Heightened Physical Performance
If you’re looking to make it big in the world of sports or you have a job that requires laser focus, one of the best ways to increase your performance is through napping. Pilots at NASA reported an almost 40% increase in alertness and overall performance after a 30-minute nap. And with world-class athletes describing similar results, you’re probably starting to see just how much napping can do for your health and happiness.
Most of us think a massive intake of caffeine is the only way to get through the after-lunch slump. But the truth is, naps give you more energy than even the most potent of caffeinated beverages. Of course, if you’re not willing to give up that afternoon cup of Joe, you can try the amazing coffee nap, and combine the best of both worlds! Just be sure to have that java at least 30 minutes before your nap to make sure you get the most out of your snooze.
Improved Overall Health
Although having more energy, being more creative, and getting a boost in productivity are all awesome reasons on their own to give napping a try, the biggest benefit you’ll get from an afternoon snooze is better health. Multiple studies have shown that even a short nap at least three times a week lowers the risk of death from heart disease by over 30% and other health benefits include weight loss, less stress, and a reduced chance of developing diabetes.
8 Ways to Take the Perfect Nap:
You’ve learned all about why we need more rest and how much napping can benefit us in a ton of ways. Now it’s time for some tips on how to get the most out of your naps, including the best ways to easily make napping a part of your regular routine.
Keep an Eye on the Time: Sleep experts all agree that a daytime nap should be relatively short to reap the biggest benefits. This is due to shorter naps allowing us to only enter the first two stages of sleep, keeping us out of REM sleep, and warding off grogginess. Naps that are under 20 minutes are the best bet, as they are easier to fit into your work day, but still give you a boost in productivity and sensory processing.
Find the Right Spot: You want to make the most your of your daytime napping, but thanks to our natural body clocks telling us to sleep at night, you might have trouble catching some midday snooze time if you don’t find a dark place to rest. Try shutting the shades in your office or investing in a sleep mask to keep light levels low.
Ditch the Distractions: The best naps require not only darkness but also peace and quiet, which means you need to zone out the noises of a typical workplace environment. If you’re lucky, you have access to a peaceful place. If not, you can create your own with a pair of earplugs or by listening to white noise or guided meditations on your cell phone.
Don’t Forget an Alarm: Keeping the “shorter is better" rule in mind, you want to make sure and set an alarm during your daytime naps. You can find some great smartphone alarms that will wake you up and also monitor your sleep cycles, which will help ensure that you’re not drifting into the deep sleep stages that will leave you feeling disoriented after your afternoon snooze.
Make Yourself Comfortable: When it comes to getting to sleep, you might be able to do it in your desk chair, but the chances are significantly improved when you’re able to stretch out and relax. If you can find a place to lie down when you nap, the time it takes you to drift off is decreased by half, meaning you’ll have more time to actually snooze.
Time Your Coffee Break Right: Although napping on its own is highly restorative and energizing, you still might be looking forward to that afternoon cup of coffee. The good news is that you can have both if you time things right! Caffeine takes around 30 minutes to kick in, and if you drink it right before your nap, you’ll wake up feeling twice as energized and ready to master the rest of your day.
Plan Ahead: If you want to get the most out of your napping time, your best bet is to take a snooze before you become completely exhausted. Not only will you have more trouble waking up when you’re extra tired, you might find falling deep asleep in the middle of the day can wreak some serious havoc on your regular sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to drift off at night. Try penciling naps into your calendar and making them a part of your daily routine.
Leave the Guilt Behind: Napping is nothing to feel bad about and science backs that up with all of the facts about how beneficial napping can be to your health. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about taking some time out of your day to recharge your battery and don’t allow others to make you feel bad about focusing on your health and wellness! Instead, give in to the joy of napping, and show off the benefits you’ve reaped from having more energy, improved productivity, and boosted creativity!