Nap time – there is nothing better than a lazy afternoon snuggled up on my bed drifting in and out of consciousness with daylight streaming in through my windows. It’s pretty much my perfect afternoon.If it were up to me, I’d make siestas a national pastime like in Spain, it would be idyllic.
It amazes me how some people (including my husband) simply don’t nap. It doesn’t matter how tired they are, they’d rather push through their foggy minds than wake up with a sleep hangover – which is a real thing – or possibly wake up to darkness because of over sleeping.
Look, I understand their fears, but at the same time, maybe they are giving up all too easy? You see, there is an art to napping and because I take it so seriously, I thought I’d help all those serial non-nappers out with a few facts.
Nap Time Facts:
- Naps improve alertness and performance – NASA did a napping study where pilots took a 26 minute nap (while the plane was operated by a co-pilot) and their results showed performance improved by 34% and alertness improved by 54%.
- Nap time is good for your heart – A Greek Study shows that regular nappers had a significantly lower rate for coronary heart disease (up to 34% less if you nap 3+ times a week).
- Naps boost your mood – studies have shown that napping boosts not only your mood but your self-confidence.
- Naps improve your memory and ability to learn – it’s been shown in studies that napping improves your memory and ability to learn better than caffeine does!
- Naps boost creativity – A Georgetown University study found that while you nap, your left brain rests silently, while your creative right brain chatters away to itself. Einstein napped on the regular, sitting upright in his armchair with a pencil in his hand and as soon as he slipped into sleep, the pencil would fall and he would wake up with, hopefully, a bright idea.
- Mammals are regular nappers – mammals of all types nap and some researchers believe humans did too. They also believe that our bodies aren’t programmed for such long periods without sleep, hence the afternoon slump we often experience.
Different kinds of Naps:
- Micro nap – 2-5 minutes to shed sleepiness.
- The power nap – 10-20 minutes to improve memory, alertness, and stamina, but it also clears your brain of useless stored up info, helping your long term memory.
- The NASA nap – this 26 minute nap boosts your productivity and alertness. Try to sleep slightly upright to avoid entering deep sleep.
- The bad nap – sleeping for only 30 minutes will wake you up right in the middle of your sleep cycle leaving you with a sleep hangover or sleep inertia which can take up to 30 minutes to dissipate. Yuck!
- The slow wave sleep nap – (my preferred nap) 60 minutes of shut eye boosts your cognitive processing, memory, and your alertness for up to 10 hours after.
- The full sleep cycle nap – during this 90 minute nap, you’ll reach REM which means you’ll be dream. This nap boosts perceptual processing, creativity, and memory.
The Secrets to Nap Time:
- Nap between 1 and 4pm – our natural human circadian rhythms make us sleepy during this time and your nap won’t interfere with night time sleep.
- Time your nap – try not to wake yourself up in the middle of your sleep cycle. The best times to wake up is usually after 5 minutes (the end of your first stage of sleep), 10-25 minutes (the end of your second stage), and 60-90 minutes (Your final sleep stage – REM). This sleep calculator has great info to help you work out your cycle.
- Sleep in a dark room – this stimulates melatonin which will help you feel more rested when you wake up.
- Sleep slightly upright – having a shorter nap? Sleep slightly upright to prevent yourself from falling into a deep sleep.
- Drink a cup of coffee – power napping? Drink a cup of joe before resting your head to help you feel even more alert when you wake up.
So, as you can see, the case for napping is strong and feeling refreshed after your snooze is a matter of timing. Anyone who feels the need to judge me or my nap loving counterparts, sorry for you, but science is on our side!
P.S. Read about the great people of history who were nap lovers like myself (including the likes of Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali, and Eleanor Roosevelt).