More Reasons to Start Taking Naps
If you’ve ever researched the history of most countries, you’d learn that napping has always been a part of life.
Today in Spain and Portugal, a 2-3 hour nap follows lunch each day, and most businesses shut down for the duration. Throughout South, Central, and Latin America, the siesta is a scheduled event. Even in some competitive countries throughout Asia, the nap is considered a helpful and healthful part of the day. Here in the United States, we tend to see napping as a thing for kindergarteners and lazy employees. For some reason, a lack of sleep is associated with increased productivity and hard work. Studies show that this interpretation couldn’t be further from the truth.
Below are four reasons to harness your inner kindergartener and get some serious midday shut eye.
Better Information Retention
You know how dreams are always some convoluted version of things you learned, discussed, or did throughout the day? Often, the last thing you saw on television, talked about with friends, thought about, or even read about before going to sleep plays a huge role in your dreams. Your brain rolls around all of that new information, and files it into the appropriate places while you sleep, helping you retrieve it later. If you sleep right after you study, your information retention will skyrocket. A nap after an intense study session will not only recharge you for the afternoon, but also help your brain absorb the information for good.
Increased Productivity and Cognitive Functioning
A tired brain is a slow brain. While caffeine can certainly help your fuzzy brain, it can also block cognitive function. If you want to rely on caffeine, plan to do things that require no thought, such as errands. Otherwise, it’s best to take a power nap, and then power through your day. Individual studies are showing that napping may protect brain circuits from overuse while learning new tasks, helping you pick up new skills without putting added stress on your brain.
Sometimes stress doesn’t actually come from external forces, but rather from our own perceptions and expectations. When we force ourselves to work through our exhaustion to reach our personal expectations, we’re only increasing the stress on our bodies and minds. Levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, are much higher in those who don’t get enough sleep, and much lower after a restful sleep!
Motivation to Exercise
We’re always too tired to exercise, but the sleep-exercise relationship is actually very symbiotic. Exercise leads to more restful sleep and more energetic days, while sleep leads to more fulfilling exercise sessions and more energetic days. If you can’t quite get the zzz’s you need overnight, accept it; don’t force it. Rather than reaching for coffee at 2pm, reach for your pillow instead. Build up your energy reserve with a nap, and you’ll be more inclined to burn off that energy in the form of exercise later on. Powering through with caffeine confuses your systems and makes it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep, further running your sleep-exercise relationship.
How to Nap
According to the sleep experts, including Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D., there’s a certain art to getting the most out of your time. The time of day, the length of nap, and the position in which you nap can all make a difference. Dr. Mednick’s studies show that napping for either 30 minutes or over an hour, not somewhere in between, will help reduce grogginess, and that napping in a lying-down position is the best way to restore alertness. Additionally, to get the “Ultimate Nap” check out her nap-wheel tool and find the right time of day for your nap.