How Napping Can Make You Healthier And More Productive…

How Napping Can Make You Healthier And More Productive

People who have a nap during the day are often viewed to be lazy, less productive, and possessing inadequate sleep. Not so, according to research. Napping can actually make you more productive and healthier.

We’ve often heard and read stories of the habits of a Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy catching their afternoon nap as a lifetime habit. New research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that an hour’s nap can dramatically boost and restore your brain power. Indeed, the findings suggest that a “biphasic” sleep schedule (sleep at night, nap in the afternoon) not only refreshes the mind, but can make you smarter.

SEE ALSO: Radical Self-Love & Living The Dream

Sleep Deprivation and Napping

One of the best arguments for napping is the damage that can be caused by sleep deprivation. A study in the journal Nature Medicine points out that sleep deprivation has been linked to a whole range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart attack and even death. But it can also be caused in an instant by a driver falling asleep at the wheel or an over-tired surgeon making the wrong incision.

The study, conducted by neuroscientists and psychiatrists at American, French and Israeli universities, examined how the brain behaves when it is deprived of sleep.It found that losing one night’s sleep stops our brain working properly. Neurons fire more slowly than usual, meaning our brain takes longer to translate visual input into conscious thought.

A team of researchers at Saarland University headed by Professor Axel Mecklinger have shown that a short nap lasting about an hour can significantly improve memory performance. The results of the study have been published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. The results are clear: ‘Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory,’ explains Axel Mecklinger. The research teams drew a clear conclusion from its study: ‘A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success.

University of California psychology professor Dr Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change your Life, goes even further in listing the benefits of napping. She claims it “increases alertness, boosts creativity, reduces stress, improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy, enhances your sex life, helps you make better decisions, keeps you looking younger, aids in weight loss, reduces the risk of heart attack, elevates your mood, and strengthens memory”.

Further, Mednick and colleagues found people performed just as well on the test after a 60- to 90-minute nap as they did after a full night of slumber (Nature Neuroscience). In another experiment, Mednick found that an afternoon nap was about equal to a dose of caffeine for improving perceptual learning. So if you’re not getting enough sleep at night, what about daytime naps? Or does napping disrupt the sleep cycle, ultimately yielding less sleep and more daytime drowsiness?

These questions were addressed in a recent study by researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in White Plains, N.Y., and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The authors concluded that napping not only increases older individuals’ total sleep time — without producing daytime drowsiness — but also provides measurable cognitive benefits. Napping rates are greater in countries like Greece, Brazil, and Mexico that have a culture of siesta, which incorporates “quiet time” in the early afternoon for people to go home for a nap. In such countries, up to 72 percent of people will nap as often as four times per week.

What do staff at NASA, Google and Samsung have in common? They can all go for a nap at work in a specially designed sleep pod. Engineers, programmers, and astronauts can lie down in the pod for 20 minutes at a time. With the outside world shut out by a large visor, the pod plays soothing sleep music before gently waking its occupant up with natural light patterns. When is the best time for a nap, then? Research suggests, a brief, early-to-mid-afternoon nap provides the greatest rejuvenation when compared to naps at any other time of the day.



Here are the benefits of napping:

Napping Can Boost Your Immune System

A 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism took 11 healthy young men and restricted them to a night of only two hours of sleep. Blood and urine tests measured higher cytokines and levels of norepinephrine in both groups after sleep deprivation. The following day, one group was given two half-hour naps, while the control group did not have any naps. Blood and urine samples of those who napped showed that their cytokines and norepinephrine levels had returned to normal, as though they had never lost a night of sleep.

A Nap Can Improve Night Alertness

For people who work at night, or through the night, several studies have shown that naps from between 30 minutes and four hours long that are taken in advance of the shift — what’s known as a “prophylactic nap” — improve performance and alertness.

Naps Plus Caffeine are a One-Two Punch Against Sleepiness.

Surgeons must often perform continuous surgery for hours longer than the average person would ever have to persist at a task. A 1994 study in the journal Ergonomics found that naps were indeed effective at keeping surgeons who had to remain awake for 24 hours alert, but only when caffeine was administered, too.

To Improve Daytime Alertness, Take Frequent Short Naps.

Daytime napping also appears to improve mental alertness and performance, according to a number of laboratory studies. However, researchers found that shorter naps were more effective than longer ones. The most effective time of them all was 20 minutes, which produced the best outcomes in all sleep measures including “subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance.”

Naps Help You Learn New Skills and Improve Your Memory

If you want to get better at learning a new skill, you might want to take more frequent naps. A 2006 study in Biological Physiology broke participants into two groups: those who napped frequently and those who napped sporadically. People who reported napping frequently—did better on the reading and retention task. One of the many functions of regular nighttime sleep is to consolidate memory. A 2010 study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory showed that participants who napped showed notably better retention of associative memory.

Napping Can Help You Deal with Physical Pain and Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

One small study on the general population showed a reduction in pain sensitivity after a midday doze. Other studies have shown napping reduces the risk of heart disease.

Tips to Make Napping Easier

When you lie down for those 20 minutes of shuteye, even if you’re really tired, it can be hard to actually fall asleep. To help, try to simulate nighttime conditions. Reduce light with a mask, blackout curtains, or—if for some strange reason your office actually invested in one—a workplace nap “pod”.

If you still can’t convince your body it’s time to zonk out, try listening to some music before you go to sleep. One study, published in a 2017 edition of the journal Sleep Medicine, showed that listening to music before napping helped patients sleep for more of the allotted napping time. They were also more alert than non-musical nappers when they woke up. Feeling really experimental? Try napping after drinking coffee. Several studies have shown that if you caffeinate before a short nap of 15 to 20 minutes, you’ll wake feeling even perkier than usual because caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in.

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Ray Williams

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Ray Williams an Author and Executive Coach. He has written four books and published more than 300 articles on leadership…

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