Napping has quite a bad reputation. Whenever someone says they need a nap, they’re marked as lazy. Napping is also considered a sign of aging, as the older we get the harder it is to go through the day without a short nap in mid-day. Another big myth is that naps won’t happen with a good night rest, but we’re here to debunk them all.
The Benefits Of Napping
In the past 2-3 decades, science has focused on finding the real value of napping. Several studies were conducted to see if naps are really beneficial for our health and productivity and as it turns out they are. According to studies, napping can improve our cognitive performance and improve our physiological wellbeing. Taking a nap in the middle of the day can rest your brain and prepare it for the challenges ahead while also making you feel much better.
How Long Should Naps Last?
Of course, not all naps are equal. Napping is a tactical thing that should be done at an exact time and must not last for longer than the required. In short, the longer the nap, the more counter-effective it will be.
Why We’re Designed To Nap
As humans, we’ve been built for napping. We’re the only mammal species divided into sleep and aware periods, but it wasn’t like that from the beginning of time. The classic lethargy after lunch when you can’t do anything but take a nap has biological origins. The human sleep-wake cycle is called the circadian rhythm and includes two periods of sleepiness – one between 1 and 3 PM and the other from 2 and 4 AM. During these periods, our reaction time, memory, coordination and mood are significantly reduced, so taking a short nap makes perfect sense in this case.
Scientists think we’re predisposed to napping because of evolution. Nowadays, we can push through fatigue with great results, but it wasn’t like that for our ancestors. If they didn’t take mid-day naps, they would have been exhausted to hunt and it might have resulted in catastrophic consequences.
However, dozing off for hours in the middle of the day isn’t beneficial as a short nap. In fact, as we said, the nap should be strategic and last for a certain time. According to a NASA study, a 26-minute nap will improve the brain performance by nearly 30% and the alertness by 54%. Other studies have shown that napping can boost the memory and when accompanied by dreams, it becomes a powerful tool for improving your learning ability.
As experts say, 3 naps per week that last for half an hour or more can reduce the risk of heart disease and just knowing that you’ll take a nap soon is enough to bring your blood pressure down. Finally, a nap has many psychological benefits, as studies have found that the brain “reorganizes” and “digests” everything learned during the day.
Napping At Work
Major companies have recently begun to encourage their employees to take a nap as a way of improving their productivity. This has even led to the creation of the so-called napping rooms which may contain napping pods (present at Google, Nike and Facebook among others) in which employees can take a short nap without being interrupted.
And, no, it’s not the cool kids having lazy ideas. Airline pilots are also allowed to take a break during long flights while co-pilots take the controls. Many scientists recommend napping as a way of boosting the function of our brain and improving our cognitive performance.
Tips For Napping Like A Pro
Watch The Time
Watching the time is crucial for a perfect nap. Even ultra-short naps that last 5-6 minutes have benefits for our health. 10-15-minute naps are the sweet spot, while 20-30 can enhance your concentration and motor skills. Longer 40-60-minute naps can boost your memory, learning ability and brain power as it includes REM sleep that improves creativity.
The longest naps you can have last 90-120 minutes and have a unique set of benefits for our brain. Studies have found that 2-hour naps improve our alertness for up to a full day, but it can also improve our procedural and emotional memory.
Knowing The Best Time For A Nap
The best time for napping according to science is between 1 and 3 PM, one of the two sleepy periods we mentioned before. The ideal nap time differs from person to person and also depends on the fact if you’re a night owl or early bird. If you wake up early, take a nap at 1 PM. If you get up later during the day, you should nap around 3 PM.
Go Back To Sleep When You Need It
If you happen to wake up feeling groggy, it’s best to just continue sleeping. If your nap makes you groggy, have a cup of coffee or wash your face with cold water. However, if your hour-long nap has made you groggy and tired, it’s just best to continue sleeping if you don’t have any work to do.
Create The Right Conditions For A Nap
In order to take a productive nap, make sure you’re in the ideal conditions. Ensure there’s minimal noise and make sure to adjust the light and temperature. Lighting is especially important as it ensures proper melatonin production, the hormone that regulates our sleep. Use window shades or an eye mask to keep your room dark and make sure to lie down as well, as research has found that people who sit for naps need longer to fall asleep.
Caffeinate Your Naps
Although short naps work better than having a cup of coffee as a brain booster, why not take both? Science says that naps and coffee go together pretty well. Drink a cup of coffee before you take a nap as the caffeine needs 20-30 minutes to start working. Time the nap to last that much and you will feel like a new person when you wake up.
Ensure Good Night Sleep
Sleeping well overnight is one of the main factors for proper health. Naps are great, but they can’t substitute a good night rest. According to one study, failing to reach deep sleep can harm your overnight rest and make it harder to wake up from a short nap. So, don’t sleep for more than half an hour and nap between 1 and 3 PM for an ideal cognitive performance boost.
Nap Because You Want To, Not Because You Need To
According to The National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-8 hours of rest overnight, although most of us get only 6. Now, 90-minute naps can replace the lost sleep overnight, but they aren’t a great alternative. Emergency napping is not exactly clever, so take naps only when you want to, not because you need to.
A Proper Diet Complements Napping
Imagine if you could take a nap that will boost your productivity on an already productive day…wouldn’t it be great? Napping can improve your brain power and productivity, but only when combined with a proper diet. Make sure to eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Eating a healthy diet will keep your metabolism and digestion in great shape, effectively improving the way your body works.