Are you getting enough sleep? Or are you among the one-third of adult Americans who are sleep deprived? While it’s not possible to “catch up” on sleep, you can revive your body during the day when you experience the power of a good nap.
Somewhere in our early childhood we stopped napping. In those early years of life, a daily nap was a necessity for healthy development. Once we headed to school, however, naps became more rare and many of us began to view naps as punishment. Adulthood has virtually eliminated napping for the majority of us, yet much of the research supports the power of a good nap.
Whether or not you get the expert recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, after 8 hours of being awake you will experience a dip in energy. Between 1-3 p.m. your body temperature drops and melatonin levels rise, which are both triggers for sleep. A nap can provide the boost you need when you hit that midday lull. More specifically, the power of a good nap supports your mental health and is evidenced by these additional benefits to your wellbeing.
Napping can improve your body’s ability to handle stress and strengthen the immune system. It also keeps blood pressure stable, which helps reduce stress as well. In one study, after a night of limited sleep, the men had a 2.5-fold increase in levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress. Those who napped after limited sleep had no reportable increase in norepinephrine, further supporting the power of a good nap and its effectiveness as a stress management technique.
Improvement in Cognitive Function
Creativity and insight are also boosted after napping. Researchers found sleeping in the afternoon was connected to better locational awareness, verbal fluency and working memory in an older Chinese population. While research is mixed on the ideal length of time it takes to harness the power of a good nap for cognitive function, it’s most often recommended to keep the nap to 30 minutes or less. Some evidence indicates, however, that a one to two hour afternoon nap benefits both your motor skills and your ability to recall facts and events.
Boosts Alertness & Attention
A nap offers a welcome boost to your levels of alertness in the afternoon. With more alertness comes better decisions, concentration, and memory recall. Short-term memory is also enhanced with better focus and attention to the task at hand. To maximize the benefits of alertness and attention, 30 minutes or less is the recommended length of time it takes to experience the power of a good nap.
Improve Physical Performance
Elite athletes have learned the power of a good nap with the improvements they experience in their level of physical performance after napping. According to Michael J. Breus, a clinical psychologist and a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, napping has been shown to improve motor performance and accuracy, as well as speed, strength and reaction time.
If you’re ready to experience the power of a good nap, set a timer and start with 5 minutes of shut-eye during the afternoon and notice how you feel. Even this short respite can help reduce stress and be a welcome break in the middle of your daily life.