Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Napping Boosts Brain Power

Hello, and Happy Tuesday! After taking a break from writing on President's Day, I'm back at it, and also back at work. Topic for the day: naps!

Young mothers often get the advice that they should sleep when their baby sleeps. Having long been an inveterate napper, this sounded like great advice to me. I made my youngest son take naps until he was 9 years old - at which time it occurred to me that I COULD nap without him. I did so.

As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing quite like a little nap over the lunch hour to refresh and rejuvenate. I used to sneak out to my old pickup truck during lunch and take a 20-minute snooze in the cab. I always - well, ALMOST always - woke up in plenty of time to go back to work. There WAS that one time when my boss woke me up by rapping on the window... hmm.

Anyway, I feel lucky that naps are part of my sleep repertoire. I've always thought that countries for whom the nap was a regular part of the daily routine really were onto something. It turns out that there is a biological need for sleep in the middle of the day - not necessarily the two-hour "siesta" favored by  hot countries (darn!), but a short nap leaves people feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It turns out that humans are what is called "bi-phasic" - that is, evolutionarily designed to need more than one period of sleep.

The mid-afternoon nap has a long history. In Roman times, a regular nap was considered a physical necessity. Islamic law actually included the nap as part of a necessary health routine. The Spanish developed the two-hour siesta to allow agricultural workers to avoid working during the hottest part of the day.

Modern research has showed that short mid-afternoon naps improve productivity, reduce burnout and increase learning ability. Some businesses are taking advantage of this by creating nap rooms for their workers; there is even a company offering "nap pods" for workers. In 2007, the French health minister considered making an afternoon nap a legal right to French workers. In 2010, Japanese companies jumped on board the sleep train by encouraging workers to nap at work. Even in America, more and more companies are starting to offer employees a space for napping. Employees emerge with increased cognition and improved productivity.

Napping also reduces the chance of heart disease, although research also indicated that it increased the chance of Type 2 Diabetes.

So how long should our naps be? Research indicates that 10-20 minutes is all that is required to improve our productivity for the remainder of the day. Longer than that - between half an hour and an hour - can leave you groggy; if you are going to sleep longer than 20 minutes, you need at least 90 minutes to go through a full sleep cycle.

There are lots of sites that offer advice on how to nap for the best "brain benefits." Information at the following links will teach you how long to nap and what benefits  mid-day sleeping offers.

Siesta Awareness
How Long to Nap
Napping Benefits and Tips
Napping Dos and Don'ts...
The Science Behind Power Naps

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