There are certain things that we need in order to stay healthy. We must make sure that we drink enough water, eat healthy food, get some exercise and get out in the sun every once in a while. Something else that we need, but is often lacking is enough sleep. It seems as if the entire society that we live in is sleep deprived, which is why so many people just enjoy sneaking in a nap every once in a while.
The problem with naps is that most of us don’t have the time to take them. If we recognize the benefits of doing so, however, we may just carve out the time every day. Reducing our sleep deficit with a nap can improve our brain, help us with our problem-solving skills, verbal memory, perceptual learning, statistical learning and object learning. In fact, people who nap on a regular basis have a better reaction time, are able to do math easier, are less fatigued and have an improved mood. That isn’t even to talk about the benefits on your heart, weight management, blood pressure and some stress levels.
The National Sleep Foundation says that it is important to take naps and they can fall into three different categories.
1. Planned napping – this type of napping is sometimes known as preparatory napping. It involves catching a few z’s before you get sleepy. It can help to fend off fatigue and is great when you know you will be up later than normal that night.
2. Habitual napping – when an individual has a routine of taking a nap at the same time each day, it falls into this category. It is common for young children but it can also be beneficial for adults to take a nap after lunch.
3. Emergency napping – if you feel as if you have suddenly crashed and can’t go on, you may need an emergency nap. It helps to treat the drowsy individual who may even be in danger because they are trying to drive or operate heavy machinery while they are too tired to do so.
According to a Greek study, adult men who napped in the afternoon at least three times weekly are 37% less likely to die from heart-related diseases compared to those who don’t take an afternoon nap.
It is common to take a nap in many countries and in some parts of the world, it is referred to as a siesta. Many of those countries also have a low rate of fatal heart attacks. In the United States and the UK, afternoon naps are not looked on with favor and heart attacks are a leading cause of death.
Many health benefits occur when you nap regularly. It can help with stress relief, heart health, improved and enhanced memory, better cognitive performance, improved relaxation and increased alertness.
A number of psychological benefits are also found with napping. It may be a luxury for some people but it is like a miniature vacation that helps the mind and body to rejuvenate.
In 1995, NASA conducted a groundbreaking study that evaluated 747 pilots and the effect that napping had on them. Part of the group was allowed to nap 40 minutes every day.
The findings of the study were interesting. The performance improvements of those who napped included a boost from 16% up to 34% improvement in reaction time.
Even a short nap can be beneficial but how long a nap goes determines the benefits you will experience.
20 minute nap – enhances mental alertness, memory and motor learning skills
20-30 minute nap – boosts memory and creativity
30-60 minute nap – enhances decision-making skills and memory
60-90 minute nap – this is the most beneficial type of nap because you get into REM sleep. It helps to reset the brain and benefits problem-solving skills.
Almost everybody would benefit from taking a nap on a daily basis. The only time it may be wise to avoid taking a daytime nap is if you have a sleeping disorder and it might interfere with your nighttime sleep.