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To Nap? Or Not to Nap?

Tara Youngblood


To Nap? Or Not to Nap?

Naps add productivity and help add to total sleep for some…How do you know if naps are a good idea for you?

First, let’s define nap.  They may be called naps or siesta or even kip for those Brits out there.  But they are usually considered a mid-day sleep of less than an hour, during which the body stays in light sleep.  If the duration is longer than that, it falls into the realm of polyphasic sleep and that is a blog for another day.  Microsleep is the shortest amount of sleep, it is unintentional and brief(as short as a few seconds).  These are bad and naps help to prevent them.

Feeling the guilt of the afternoon slump? Don’t– the midday energy slump experienced by many adults. But why does this happen? Better yet, how do we stop it?  If you are lacking great sleep at night, your body may be signaling you to fall asleep.  Your body temperature naturally changes throughout the day and it is the lowest at night.  But for some people, between 2-4pm they experience a slight dip in core temperature.

So how do you know if napping is good for you? The benefits of napping are numerous. Short naps (of less than 1 hour) are associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, improved productivity, and increased mental performance and learning, According to a report published in the Annals of Internal MedicineA study in 2006 concluded that regular naps of less than 30 minutes, and even a power nap as short as ten minutes, can improve productivity and mental performance.  Crazy isn’t it that a nap is better for remembering than staying awake and cramming?

But the evidence for longer naps isn’t conclusive and experts often disagree about naps.

  • A 2007 study conducted by epidemiologists at the University of Athens of over 23,000 participants found that siestas were correlated with lower rates of fatal heart attacks, especially in working men.
  • Meanwhile, a study conducted at Hadassah University Hospital in Israel in 2005 looked at a sample of 455 70-year olds and found that those who practiced siestas had a higher death rate.
  • An earlier (2003) Israeli study found that long siestas (over 2 hours) were correlated with increased mortality among men, but that shorter naps and siestas for women had no major correlation with mortality. And siestas appeared to be worse among men with chronic health problems.
  • 2000 study by Harvard Medical School researchers of people in Costa Rica found that daily siestas, in fact, increased the effect of heart attacks.

So keep it short and Power Nap instead! A Power nap offers scientifically-proven benefits including increased cognitive abilities, alertness and memory:

  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, power naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.
  • NASA study found that the alertness of tired astronauts and military pilots improved 100% after taking a short, “power nap.”
  • University of Michigan study found that after waking from a power nap, participants were less impulsive and had a greater tolerance for frustration than people who watched an hour-long nature documentary instead of sleeping.

So, what the best way to achieve power nap (the advanced napper may want a coffee nap-keep reading) nirvana?

  1. Take advantage of the afternoon slump, when your body is already primed to fall asleep.
  2. Don’t sleep at your desk. It takes about twice as long to fall asleep sitting upright versus lying down. Instead, find a dark and cool place.
  3. Use earplugs or a sleep mask to block out extra light and noise.
  4. Meditate and relax. Take slow, deep breaths. Clear your mind of all stress-related thoughts from work.
  5. Don’t sleep for longer than 20 minutes. Set an alarm if you must.