There is a good reason why there is a growing belief that napping is actually good for us. Taking a timeout to sleep during the day does much more than just give us a quick energy boost. It also confers some serious cognitive and health advantages as well. Above we explain what science nowadays states about naps.
Power naps help us with math, logical reasoning, our reaction times, and symbol recognition. Naps improve our mood and feelings of sleepiness and fatigue.
These can alleviate our so-called sleep deficits, but they can also boost our brains, including improvements to creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning, and statistical learning.
Not only that, napping is good for our heart, blood pressure, stress levels, and surprisingly, even weight management.
Humans sleep just once a day, which is different from 85% of all mammalian species. Scientists aren’t sure if we’re naturally monophasic or if it’s modern society that has made us so.
Regardless, it’s clear that we’re not getting enough sleep. Nearly a third of us say we’re simply not getting enough of the rest we need.
We are usually advised when to go on diet, or we’re told to exercise more, but it’s not often that someone tells you to take a nap more often. You might be surprised to find out which and how powerful are the benefits of napping.
Isn’t that great news, that from this day forth you can justify your actions whenever you want to take a short nap? Once you’ve finished reading this article, go take a nice nap.
Nap For Your Heart
Greek researchers in their study found that adult males who took an afternoon nap at least three times per week were 37% less likely to die from a heart related disease compared to men who never take a short afternoon nap. I know this fact would be even more intriguing, but NASA scientists are studying this matter as well.
Many different countries have a custom in their culture to nap after lunch. Coincidentally or not, nearly all such states have a very low rate of fatal heart attacks. In UK and the USA, heart attacks are the leading cause of death, and as most of us know, neither of these two societies advocate afternoon naps.
For several decades, we are aware that napping is particularly great for alertness, learning, memory, and performance. So, we are certain that napping is beneficial in terms of heart health, but what are the other benefits of napping? Read them carefully.
- Stress reduction
- Improved memory
- Increased alertness
- Improved cognitive performance
- Improved relaxation
Can a cup of coffee in the middle of the offer the same benefits? A study in 2008 proved that naps are far better that caffeine, since they are more effective in improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning.
Afternoon naps improved free recall memory compared to the caffeine group after both 20 minutes and seven hour intervals, while resulting in improved learning on physical tasks than caffeine. It should be noted, however, that the researchers had their participants nap between 60 and 90 minutes.
But as noted in the study, caffeine has been known to impair motor sequence learning and declarative verbal memory.
Moreover, in 1995, NASA investigated the beneficial effects of napping (PDF) on 747 pilots in a study. Each participant was allowed to nap for 40 minutes during the day, sleeping on average for 25.8 minutes (which is just about right).
Nappers “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses compared to the No-Rest Group.”
How The Length of a Nap Affects the Benefits?
Even a short 20 minute nap in the afternoon can provide all the benefits of napping which have already been mentioned. However, the length of your nap will determine what sort of benefits you’re likely to experience. According to the WebMD naps are divided into a few different categories:
20 Minute Nap – This short nap enhances memory, and has large effect on mental alertness and motor learning skills.
20 To 30 Minute Nap – This length of nap will enhance creativity and boost your memory at the same time.
30 To 60 Minute Nap – This nap has enormous beneficial impact on one’s decision making skills. It also improves the part of your memory that’s responsible for memorizing things such as the alphabet; directions and etc.
60 To 90 Minute Nap – Taking this type of nap will ensure that you get REM sleep, and as such, this type of nap is the most beneficial of them all. Once you reach REM sleep, it’s almost as if the brain resets itself. One could say it’s like starting at the beginning again. Studies have shown that a 60 to 90 minute nap can have a dramatic effect on the brain in terms of problem solving. Here again, NASA has conducted their own studies, and they land up with the same result.
When it is Not A Good Idea
We must mention that napping is not beneficial for everyone. For example, some feel great when they wake up in the morning after a long sleep, but if they take a short nap, they feel dazed and often have difficulty trying to concentrate.
Some people take a nap during the day, they then have difficulty falling asleep at night, and this in turn can eventually result in sleep deprivation. Lastly but not least, you might live in a culture where napping at work is frowned upon, in which case it could interfere with your career.