Modern life's fast pace and pressure place high stress on the mind and body leading to you feeling tired or drowsy and not performing at your best. It is vital to make enough time for sleep and relaxation to protect your health and vitality and ensure you are not putting yourself or others at risk.
Research supports the health benefits of daytime napping. Studies have identified some of the key advantages, including improved mood, alertness, memory, creativity, performance and general health.
Shorter naps (between 10 – 30 minutes) lead to improved alertness and cause little or no grogginess, ideal to refresh, but it may not be enough to alleviate serious fatigue or the effects of sleep deprivation. Longer naps (30 – 90 minutes) may cause short-term grogginess upon waking up, which could be a problem if you are required to be alert immediately. However, they will relieve fatigue and the effects of sleep deprivation.
Regular naps have many advantages:
- Napping increases levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin, which improves mood.
- Healthy Serotonin levels promote a sense of well-being and contentment and create a positive outlook.
We perform poorly when fatigued or drowsy; we are more likely to make mistakes or accidents.
- A NASA study showed that a 40-minute nap increased alertness by 100%.
- Another study showed that a 20 min nap is more effective than 20mg of caffeine.
- Research has shown that if you break your day with a nap, you will be as alert and energetic in the second half of the day as in the first.
Creativity and Performance
- A 10-minute nap produces significant improvement in cognitive performance and significantly reduces sleepiness.
- Napping can improve sensory perception as much as a full nights’ sleep and greatly sharpens the senses.
- Naps improve your memory, especially working memory which is involved when working on complex tasks.
- Napping also improves memory retention. Recent memories are transferred from the hippocampus to the neocortex, where long-term memory is formed and stored during REM sleep. If you don’t have good REM sleep after studying, you will forget a lot of what you learnt.
Health and Relaxation
A lack of sleep increases the stress hormone Cortisol. Excess Cortisol has many adverse effects such as weight gain, high blood sugar and insulin levels, high blood pressure, anxiety, a weak immune system and much more.
- Napping can help to reduce Cortisol levels and maintain it at healthy levels, reducing the risk for heart disease and type II Diabetes.
- During sleep stages 3 and 4 (slow wave sleep), the body releases Human Growth Hormone and completely stops secreting Cortisol, which balances Cortisol and other hormones. This reduces stress and anxiety and boosts the immune system.
- A study done on Greek men found that those who took 30-minute naps at least three times a week had 37% less risk of dying from heart disease.
It is clear that you should not underestimate the health and restorative powers of a regular afternoon nap. It is a habit that will promote health and longevity and can ease the stress and tensions of our hurried lives.