Well, it doesn’t get any easier than this as far as a self-help health aid! Too bad a lot of people feel guilty about taking a nap. I love to visit my 91 year-old father for a few days because naps are an important part of his daily routine and I have no problem at all jumping on board with that. 🙂
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy all have one thing in common: daily mid-afternoon naps. Linked with clarity, increased performance, memory, mood and even heart health, naps are an economical (and fun) way to boost mental and physical health. Many companies are now sanctioning office nap times to increase productivity and morale. By following a few simple steps, a blissful catnap can become a happy and healthful habit.
Seeking an excuse to grab a bit of shut-eye? Take a look at the following benefits:
Greek researchers found that men who took a 30 minute nap at least three times a week lowered their risk of dying from a heart attack by 37 percent. Factors such as smoking, diet and activity level were included in the study.
Healthy Weight Management
When energy naturally drops in the afternoon, coffee and sugar tend to be the usual stimulants of choice. But afternoon sleepiness is a biological rhythm related to a slight decrease in body temperature — nature is telling us that it wants us to take a nap. By attempting to ward off drowsiness with caffeine and sugary snacks, biorhythm is disrupted, extra calories are consumed and a rollercoaster ride of energy spikes and crashes begins. This vicious cycle contributes to unwanted extra pounds.
Alertness, Improved Mood and Performance
A mid-afternoon nap can help with depression, dullness and lack of clarity — all of which can hinder physical and mental performance. As seen in the Harvard Health Letter, a New Zealand study found that “air traffic controllers working the night shift scored better on tests of alertness and performance if they took advantage of a planned nap period of 40 minutes.”
According to Sara Mednick, PhD, sleep medicine researcher and author of Take a nap! Change Your Life, a nap will also:
– Reverse aging
– Strengthen the sex drive
– Accelerate the ability to perform motor tasks
– Enhance how the body utilizes carbs
– Minimize stress hormones
– Alleviate migraines
– Reduce brain chatter before nighttime sleep
A few quick tips to get the most out of a nap:
– Try to keep naps under 45 minutes to avoid grogginess
– Naps are best taken between 1:00 and 3:00 PM
– 30 minute naps improve memory and physical health
– 20 minute naps are revitalizing and help to sharpen the senses
– 10 minute naps help to uplift mood and fend-off afternoon energy slumps
Sleeping on the job
Even large companies are beginning to see the benefit of power naps. Google has ‘nap pods’ that create a sleeping oasis by blocking sound and light while Intuit Canada provides nap rooms for its employees to enhance overall productivity. A napping spa in Manhattan is used by big names such as Hearst Corporation, Newsweek and Time Warner. Clients enjoy a “cocoon-like” treatment room with adjustable lighting, sound and aromatherapy.
But a fancy cocoon is not necessary to take advantage of napping benefits. Simply get comfortable, close your eyes, set the alarm and bask in this nurturing (and productive) habit.
BTW, author Mednick says that taking a nap is actually written in our DNA, and before the light bulb was invented in 1879 by Thomas Edison, our great grandparents normally slept 10 hrs. Since then that time has been reduced from 10 to 8 hrs, and then now it’s at 6.7 hrs. They say that being sleep deficit is as dangerous to our country as being economically deficient. Reduced sleep is actually called the silent killer because it has such a profound effect on our health. And research out of Harvard has shown that a nap as short a 6 minutes can improve performance, so it’s actually really smart to nap!
Here’s a few more interesting tidbits about napping I got from an article at Easy Health Options:
The power nap
Research by neuropsychologists at Saarland University in Germany shows that a quick nap can recharge your brain’s batteries and improve your memory’s recall and information retention by 500%
The naps used in this study lasted from 45 to 60 minutes. To measure the effects of napping, the scientists analyzed brain activity called “sleep spindles,” short, quick bursts of brain waves that have been linked to solidifying your memories.
You can think of the burst of energy in the sleep spindles like the flashes from a camera’s flash bulb – they sharply illuminate the information you’ve just learned and imprint it on the film of your mind.
According to researcher Axel Mecklinger, “A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep.”
Other studies also show why we feel so recharged and rejuvenated after a nap: It can offset the negative effects of a poor night’s sleep and improve your hormones, immune system function and stress responses.
Research in France shows that when you skimp on sleep your levels of norepinephrine (a stress hormone) more than doubles. Plus, you risk having a depressed level of interleukin-6 — an immunity protein that helps keep you safe from viral infections like a cold or pneumonia.
In both cases, a nap during the day, can restore the body’s homeostasis and improve the amount of these substances circulating in your blood and saliva.
The nap-learning trick
An interesting aspect of napping that I’ve never tried, but which I might attempt after reading the research on it, concerns learning a new skill or new information while you nap.
The researchers who have studied this subject say you can’t merely turn on a recording of new information you want to learn and then play it back while you sleep and expect to magically possess new knowledge. But their work indicates that if you work at learning something and then play back the information on a CD player, MP3 player or a tape recorder while you sleep, it can improve your learning process.
In a study at Northwestern University, scientists found that when students learned how to play a melody on a keyboard and then had the melody played back to them while they napped, they more readily learned how to play it.
“The critical difference is that our research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned,” says researcher Paul J. Reber. “Rather than learning something new in your sleep, we’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.”
So if you’re learning how to speak French, right after a learning session you can enhance your new vocabulary by playing back the French you’ve studied while you relax and slip into sleep.
Salud….and happy napping!
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