The Power Nap is more important than you think.
And if you think back to the time you were a kid, wasn’t life just more simple? You ran around, you got tired, you took a nap. These days, who even has the time to take a 10 minute cat (or dog) nap.. ? Not many.
photo credit: I.live.science.com
But not all Naps are created equal. Sleep too short a while, and there are no benefits. Sleep too long, and you get sluggish. The time of day, when you take a nap is important as well – Our circadian rhythm is the natural fluctuation in various biological functions that takes place over a 24-hour period. Since there is a natural dip in alertness that happens in the afternoon between 3:00-5:00pm, this is the best time to take a nap. During these hours, you fall asleep faster, have more “efficient” sleep, and experience more “slow wave sleep”, or deep sleep.
If you are the sort who does not need much sleep, than napping might not be for you. The last thing you need is to be an insomniac in the wee hours of the morning. But if you are sleep deprived, napping can be a good thing.
As for the duration of your nap – well a five minute nap will, unfortunately, not result in any significant improvements in cognitive performance or alertness. Naps that are 10, 20, or 30-minutes long all improve cognitive performance and alertness to a degree. If you look at the data on sleep clinical trials, then the traditional “power nap” should only last for 10-minutes. If you nap for 30-minutes or longer, you will likely experience sleep inertia upon waking. This is related to waking up during deeper, slow wave sleep. Depending on how sleep deprived you are during the night, that should determine how long you need to nap as well.
And one of the hugest benefits of napping, is the effect of anti-aging and the reduction of cortisol in the body .. and my mother is a firm believer in afternoon naps – she looks 20 years younger than her actual age. It definitely gives a nice glow and elasticity to your skin that can beat any collagen cream. Cortisol which is also called “the stress hormone”, is secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress. While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as heart disease, decreased immune system and diabetes. Napping can help reduce cortisol in the blood and restore a state of hormone equilibrium.
If you want to live longer, nap.
The 10 Benefits of Napping include :
1. Gorgeous Skin
Skin that’s well rested has a natural glow about it. Collagen is formed while we sleep. Trust me, if you can nap, you possess the key to eternal youth.
2. Brighter Eyes
If you’ve ever done an Iridology test, you will know that certain regions in the eye, correlate to your internal organ’s well being. So napping brings about a healing process in your body that’s hard to top. Bright eyes, strong organs!
3. Relieves Stress
A large study, a two hour nap after a night of sleep deprivation was found to reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in healthy volunteers. In addition, a 30-minute nap was found to decrease self-reported stress levels in college students.
4. Improves Cardiovascular Health
A large cohort study on healthy individuals in Greece found that those who took frequent naps were a full 37% less likely to die of coronary heart disease during the six year follow up. Even occasional nappers came out ahead, with a 12% reduced risk of coronary mortality.
5. Strengthens the Immune System
The times I fall ill, are usually the times I am sleep deprived. Napping helps strengthen the body and the immune to fight off common colds and the flu faster.
6. Improves Memory And Learning
Declarative memory, or the memory of fact-based information, is improved after a short nap of less than one hour.
7. Improves Performance And Alertness
No brainer – your body is definitely working at its optimum once you have had a nap.
8. Improves Your Mood
Napping makes you a nicer person to be around too haha!
9. Gives you Faster Reflexes & Motivation
Taking a nap will give you some energy to get moving.. or even to complete that chore you were putting off. If you’re playing contact sports, such as touch rugby or basketball, a nap is all it takes to pick up your reflexes.. my hubby will attest to this!
10. Smarter than your Mate?
Scientists believe that your brain makes new nerve connections during REM sleep. So if you need some creative problem solving skills, a 90-minute nap that goes through a full sleep cycle might be just the thing to solve the puzzle and finish that presentation!