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The Benefits and Bliss of Napping

by Nancy Maneely

Benefits of NappingAs a nation, the United States appears to be becoming more and more sleep deprived. And it may be our busy lifestyle that keeps us from napping. While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.

Habitual nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap.

  • Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness 100 percent.
  • Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day.
  • Scheduled napping has also been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy.
  • Napping has psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.

A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap improves reduces sleepiness and improves cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends these tips for happy napping:

  • A short nap (20-30 minutes) is recommended for short-term alertness. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved sleep health and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.
  • Make sure that you have a restful place to lie down and that the temperature in the room is comfortable. Try to limit the amount of noise heard and the extent of the light filtering in. While some studies have shown that just spending time in bed can be beneficial, it is better to try to catch some zzz’s.
  • If you take a nap too late in the day, it might affect your nighttime sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. If you try to take it too early in the day, your body may not be ready for more sleep.

Do you fit “power naps” into your schedule? Or do you wish you could?

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