Naptime… as a child, I remember I couldn’t wait to be old enough to no longer hear my mom saying, “It’s naptime. Go lie down.” Now, as an adult, I long to hear my mom, or anyone else for that matter, utter those very words.
Our culture frowns upon adults wanting a mid-afternoon nap. But, why is that? Not all cultures consider napping to be inappropriate. Spain has the siesta, Japan has inemuri, Italy practices riposo, and those are just some of the world’s cultures that embrace napping as part of the adult’s daily routine.
Perhaps a daily recharge is exactly what is needed to counteract the effects of today’s busy lifestyle.
Who Can Benefit From Napping
Almost anyone can benefit from an afternoon nap, but there are certain groups who find naps more beneficial. People who find that they’re irritable in the afternoon with no perceptible cause are prime candidates for a mid-afternoon nap.
Those who need a boost of caffeine or always grab a sugary snack might find that a nap gives them as much, if not more, energy than the sugar or drink.
Night owls who don’t get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night could also find benefit in a daily nap routine.
Someone who finds it hard to concentrate after their lunch break could benefit from a nap as well.
According to an article published by Harvard Health, older adults, those 60 and older, could find a nap beneficial to their overall sleep cycle.
What Exactly Are The Benefits Of Napping
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, study participants who were allowed to take two 30 minute naps after being deprived of a full night’s sleep had norepinephrine and cytokine levels that were normal for someone who had experienced a full night’s rest.
Elevated levels of cytokine and norepinephrine are linked to increased stress levels and inflammatory responses which can negatively affect the immune system, so the conclusion was that naps can help to boost the immune system.
Short naps, 10 to 30 minutes, can help increase alertness both during the day and at night for an evening shift. Some studies indicate that taking a nap in the afternoon also helps drivers stay alert if they need to be on the roads at night.
People who nap regularly also seem to retain new information better than people who choose not to nap or who only nap sporadically. Studies have indicated that people both recall facts they learned earlier in the day after having napped, and process new information presented after a nap easier. Creativity also seems to be boosted by an afternoon nap. Something about the sleep process inspires us to create.
Napping is beneficial to competitive athletes as well. In addition to the mental benefits, napping has physical benefits too. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, athletes had improved sprint times after taking a 30 minute nap as compared to their times before a nap. Researchers suggest that these improved times indicate that a nap improves stamina and performance.
When To Nap
Logistically speaking, taking a nap in the middle of the day may be a difficult task to accomplish. Most of us have jobs that require us to be present on a daily basis. Bosses may or may not embrace the idea of a daily siesta.
To make the most of a nap, timing is everything. Too late, and it’ll interfere with sleep at night. Too early, and it’ll cause grogginess and lethargy for the afternoon. Most experts suggest napping after lunch but before 3 p.m. The sweet spot seems to be around 2 p.m. It’s suggested that naptime be penciled into the schedule, so that it’s at the same time every day consistently.
The length of the nap is also a critical element in getting the most benefit from the practice. For the most part a shorter nap seems to be the most beneficial. Typically between 10 to 30 minutes is ideal. Napping longer than 30 minutes can cause that same groggy, lethargic feeling of napping too early in the day.
Where To Nap
The where is probably the most logistically difficult element of the mid-afternoon nap experience.
Ideally, a nice cool room with a comfortable bed will provide the most restful sleep. Studies indicate that actually stretching out on a bed helps the body to relax and enter a sleep state faster than simply napping at a desk.
Sneaking home at lunch to grab a nap in bed may not be an option for everyone. But, some companies, who’ve begun to see the benefit of allowing their employees to nap, have started providing space to lie down with extra long twin beds, so their employees get the most out of their nap.
Another option is to simply go out to your car during the 2nd half of your lunch break. You could recline the driver seat back, or even get in the back seat and fully stretch out.
No matter the age, a nap can make the difference between a good, productive afternoon, and the feeling of being in a slump.
Typically, people in the United States consider napping as an adult to indicate either laziness, illness, or a lack of sleep. However, it could just be the body’s way of recharging. In today’s hustle and bustle society, we are taxing our systems more than ever. Many of us burn the candle at both ends resulting in mental and physical exhaustion. Stress levels are on the rise, and that decreases productivity.
Naps benefit mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Contrary to conventional thinking, taking a nap during the day can actually help create better sleep patterns at night.
I’m personally ready to grab a pillow and discover the benefits of a nap for myself!