Remember those days as a child when afternoon nap time would roll around and you fought tooth and nail to avoid this downtime?
I mean, come on, who wanted to take a nap? We were kids! We had forts to build, Barbies that needed to put on fashion shows, bikes to ride, trees to climb, and hey, those tea parties weren’t going to happen all on their own, right?!
Ah, but now, as an adult…
Raise your hand if you miss afternoon nap time? Look at that, it’s like the whole world just did ‘the wave.’ Hands raised for miles! 😉
And, why do most of us miss nap time? I’d say it’s because not many of us are immune to these sentiments that arrive roughly mid-afternoon:
- My brain is fried.
- I need a pick-me-up.
- I just need some coffee (for energy and mental clarity).
- Is it 5:00 yet, I just can’t think any longer!
Well, not only are you not alone in those feelings, science actually confirms the benefit of a mental recharge come midafternoon in the form of…you guessed it…a NAP! (Maybe mom was right, or maybe she just needed a break, but I digress.)
So, while you may feel like your afternoon coffee break is the only thing that will free your mind so your work will productively follow, the childhood practice of an afternoon nap may actually be what the doctor ordered!
Sleep is said to be just as crucial to your health and wellness as eating, drinking, and even breathing!
Sleep can help manage inflammatory responses within the body in regards to both disease and cell damage.
While you sleep, your body repairs itself and processes information.
But, you don’t need an entire night of sleep to reap some of these benefits!
Afternoon naps have been linked to:
- Boosted memory
- Improvement in job performance
- Increased levels of alertness
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress
- Improved consistency (task related)
- Boosted creativity
- Greater problem solving capabilities
Some companies have realized the brain boosting (and thus profit boosting) power of an afternoon nap and have implemented time for employees to do so as the practice has proven to save money and result in a happier and more productive workforce.
A 15-20 minute nap, also known as a power nap, is most associated with an increase in both alertness and cognitive function.
Extending your nap to 30 minutes (and up to an hour) has been shown to increase problem solving skills and creativity.
And, a longer nap (roughly 90 minutes) is recognized as a full sleep cycle.
Most research suggests this length of napping time also boosts brain function, alertness, and creativity. Though some say in elderly people, a 90 minute nap may be too much, potentially having the opposite effect on cognitive function.
Recent research conducted in China involved the study of 2,214 people (each over the age of 60 in this particular study).
The participants were studied in regards to their napping habits and were given a series of tests measuring various types of cognitive ability (in particular here: focus and problem solving).
The results? Those individuals who claimed to regularly take afternoon naps received much higher scores in their cognitive performance abilities than those who did not nap.
The areas where such afternoon napping seemed to provide the most benefit in this study were locational awareness, verbal fluency, and working memory.
And, while there have been a few studies yielding results opposite to this one, the findings in the above listed study are consistent with many others, showing improved cognitive performance to be a result of midday napping.
Sleep aids in your body’s ability to store memories, making your afternoon nap helpful in remembering tasks you performed earlier in the day. Some studies show that a nap can aid in this type of memory functioning as much as a full night of sleep.
One study found that napping helped the brain to “draw connections,” (referring to brain connections) which is what makes it easier for a person to piece together information they’ve been given at earlier moments in the day.
And, in other studies, nappers saw a great benefit in “associative memory” and even experienced boosts in their overall capacity for learning.
But, what if you’re not sleepy?
According to a review in the Journal of Sleep Research, naps even benefit the well-rested, improving reaction time, logical reasoning, and symbol recognition.
So, how long should you nap?
- Even though there are brain boosting benefits to be had with naps lasting upwards to 90 minutes, the experts advise to keep naps at 30 minutes or less, ideally between 10 and 20 minutes.
- Even a 10 minute nap can prove beneficial when it comes to improving mental sharpness.
- Frequent naps lasting longer than 60 minutes can potentially cause nighttime insomnia.
When should you nap?
- Try to get in your short afternoon snooze prior to 3 pm. Napping after this time could possibly interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule.
Where/how should you nap?
- A dark, quiet room is best for your afternoon nap, complete with comfortable temps and no distractions.
- Some recommend ear plugs, an eye mask, and a blanket to aid in comfort and help the body quickly fall asleep (as some may struggle to fall asleep in the middle of the day).
- Getting some fresh air after a nap is advised to avoid feelings of grogginess.
Sleeping in THIS position linked to Alzheimers
Though bizarre, Harvard researchers have discovered a shocking link between your sleep and the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The big question is — do you sleep on your side or on your back?
Because further research shows, ONE of these positions is linked to the first signs of dementia.