Move over toddlers – grownups have discovered the perks of the afternoon snooze!
Remember how in kindergarten you’d have to lie down on the floor and nap even though you didn’t want to? It didn’t seem like a good thing back then, but as an adult, you may find a napping habit has a positive health impact on body and soul.
If you’re not sure napping is something you need to adopt, consider the throngs of professional athletes who have proudly revealed their loyalty to naps, from the NBA’s LeBron James to Wimbledon tennis champ Andy Murray.
Many celebrities have embraced the habit, too, including: John Legend, Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, James Franco and supermodel Heidi Klum. Even corporations like Ben & Jerry’s, Google and Uber provide dedicated sleep spaces in their headquarters.
What’s this nap craze all about?
There’s a growing body of scientific research that confirms what some people already know. Naps are good for you – really good. Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg is a nap advocate, too. He’s a board certified sleep physician and author of The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety, based in Prescott Valley, AZ.
“Just a 10-minute nap can increase your alertness for 2 to 3 hours,” he says. “It’s an effective way to recover from a poor night’s sleep and it will help improve your memory, your mood and even decrease the incidence of heart disease and diabetes, especially for short power nappers.”
If for some reason, you’ve gone a whole night without sleep, perhaps you’ve binge watched Breaking Bad again, you might need a longer nap – 1 to 2 hours – in order to get the adequate rest that allows you to function reasonably well.
Your mind and body will thank you for that daytime sleep, and so will your employer coincidentally. Data published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that naps improve performance, along with reaction time and logical reasoning.
And if you’re trying to learn a new skill – on or off the job, you can recharge with a short afternoon sleep. University of California, Berkeley, tested participants of a study after snoozing for 90 minutes. They scored better on tests requiring associative memory skills – the ability to learn – than those in the non-napping group.
Scientists have also been taking a closer look at a nap’s impact on mood and emotional regulation. A University of Michigan doctoral student found that people were less impulsive and had a higher tolerance for frustration – moms with young ones at home, that last tidbit is for you – after a 60-minute nap. That may be due to its ability to help the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with memory, emotions and motivation) function more effectively.
Want to be a highly effective napper? Here’s how!
If you’re not among the 34% of Americans who nap on any given day, according to a Pew Research Center report, and you would like to be, here are some top tips from Dr. Rosenberg on how to have the ideal midday snooze:
- Head for a quiet, dark place – the same rules that apply for your regular sleep. You’ll also need minimal light and disruptions.
- Get comfy. That doesn’t necessarily mean get totally horizontal and climb into bed. You can cozy up in your favorite lounge chair or simply put your head on your desk.
- Take off anything tight and constrictive (but keep it G-rated, if you’re in public or at work). Kick off your shoes or undo your belt. And guys, loosen your ties.
- Aim for the nap sweet spot. Body temperatures tend to dip naturally between 1 and 3 p.m., so you’ll be well primed to grab some shuteye in that window
- Set an alarm. Set your smart phone to go off in 10 to 20 minutes, especially if you tend to nap too long. That may cause you to experience sleep inertia, which might have you feeling foggy for up to 35 minutes.
But as you practice your napping strategy, remember that too much of a good thing can cause problems. “Naps in excess of 45 minutes and are taken after 4 p.m. can disrupt your regular sleep patterns,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “You don’t need much more than 10 to 20 minutes under most circumstances.”
And, if you’ve never been a napper or felt the desire to nap, that’s okay, too. Some people get more benefits from it than others. There’s no one-size-fits-all right answer. Just be sure to get the sleep you need and consider a nap any time you need to recharge.