Some of the world’s most famous leaders and thinkers, including Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein, relied on taking a nap to stay ahead. Not only is napping free, but it also benefits you both physically and mentally.
Napping for Health
For the sleep-deprived, napping is a good way to pay back your sleep debt, but even after a good night’s sleep on a perfect mattress, a regular power nap is great for your body and mind. If you are losing sleep at night due to stress, a daytime slumber melts away layers of tension enabling you to feel less wired up at bedtime. In fact, the regular relief from anxiety achieved by healthy napping is believed to be as effective as statins in reducing the risk of heart disease. Napping has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
A quick daily snooze can even help to maintain a healthy weight by regulating the hormones that control appetite. How easy it is to give in to sugar cravings during a long, low energy afternoon! Reach for a pillow instead of a cup of coffee and you are avoiding the negative effects of too much caffeine.
A study carried out by NASA found that a 40-minute nap can restore alertness by 100%.
If a refreshing nap can boost your brainpower and creativity there is no need to feel guilty about wasting time sleeping. In fact, it has been demonstrated that going to sleep directly after learning something increases the memory’s retention of information. This applies to daytime as well as nighttime sleep, a tip worth remembering for students revising for exams.
Prudently topping up on your sleep is a good way to take care of your family relationships as well as yourself. You will be less irritable, a more alert listener and have plenty of energy to play with the children or grandchildren after a mini rest. Collapsing into bed exhausted at the end of a long waking day won’t give you the time to enjoy winding down in your comfortable bedroom. Being sufficiently awake to read, or do whatever you like to do in bed to celebrate the end of the day, chases away your worries before a calm night’s rest.
The difficulties arising from being overtired at bedtime are most obvious in children. They will be cranky, hard to settle, and much more likely to wake during the night. Discouraging napping can be counterproductive. The NHS recommends a 45-minute nap for three-year-olds, therefore some four-year-olds will still need quiet rest time after school. Keeping a calm, screen-free, space around your older kids’ beds will provide a daytime sanctuary in which to unplug for a while.
After retirement age, an hour-long nap in the afternoon improves cognitive function and offsets early waking which can be experienced in later years. A good quality bed is one of the most important investments you can make for your well being, so it’s worth visiting it during the day from time to time. If you are worried that sleeping in a bed during the day might make it harder to drift off at night, try sleeping on a divan bed in the guest room, as sleeping upright in a chair can be bad for the spine.
The perfect power nap lasts for 20 minutes and can be enjoyed anywhere. This is known as a stage 2 nap and will immediately restore alertness and enhance motor skills, but have no effect on nighttime sleep routines. If you want to supercharge your nap with caffeine, take a coffee nap; pour a cup of strong tea or coffee, doze off for 15 – 20 minutes while it cools, drink up and you’re good to go.
Longer naps, between 30 minutes to 2 hours, are restorative but you could feel groggy afterwards. Set an alarm if you don’t want to sleep too long. A siesta of an hour or more will lead you into REM, or slow-wave sleep, where your brain makes new connections, solutions to problems are found, and creative ideas are born. Hence the advice ‘sleep on it’.
Quality sleep during the day is essential for safety in some occupations. Shift workers, airline pilots, train drivers, doctors and nurses all need to go to bed in daylight. A planned nap, or preparatory nap, is advisable in advance of a long drive or a demanding commitment later on. Preparatory naps are taken even when not feeling tired or drowsy, to put some sleep in the bank for later. You may not manage to fully drop off, but relaxing under the duvet, you can fall into light Stage 1 sleep without even knowing it. Your body will be rested, and your mind revived.