There’s a persistent idea that napping makes you lazy or unproductive, and that it’s only for small children and people too old to work. People even pride themselves on how little sleep they get.
Science, however, shows that the stigma against napping is misplaced and inaccurate. Carefully used, naps are a great way to boost your intelligence and productivity, ensure better health, and even work toward self improvement.
The Unnatural Full Night’s Sleep
Modern humans are among the few creatures that sleep all at once. Almost every other type of animal, from cats to canaries, gets polyphasic sleep. This consists of a series of sleeping and waking cycles during every 24 hour time period.
Even ancient humans tended to break up sleep. In ancient Rome, sexta or noon was considered the best time for a mid-day nap. The same practice was traditional in Spain, Mexico and many other countries, but it’s dying off due to the increasing use of American and Northern European business hours.
Since most people have extreme difficulty getting enough hours of sleep every night, the resulting sleep deprivation causes many health problem. Loss of sleep makes us less accurate, more irritable and more susceptible to disease. We have trouble feeling happy and healthy and our work often suffers significantly.
Advantages of Napping
- Greater alertness – If you feel like you’re about to nod off at any moment, you’re not doing good work. Making time to get a nap could improve things significantly. According to one study performed by NASA, a 40 minute nap provides an alertness increase of up to 100 percent. Just 20 minutes produces greater improvement than either exercise or taking 200 milligrams of caffeine.
- Better memory and learning capacity – Naps also help to boost your working memory, which is required for managing complex tasks. Sleeping for short periods is also good for longer-term memory, since you transfer information out of your short term memory and into permanent storage in the neocortex while you’re asleep.
- Increased creativity and sensitivity – By taking a nap, you can boost your sensory perception abilities significantly. Being tired reduces your ability to taste food, enjoy beautiful things and process other sensations. It also cuts into your creativity; if you’re having trouble on a project, just take a nap and it may all come together.
- Better health – When you deprive yourself of sleep, you boost your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. An increase in cortisol makes you feel anxious and irritable. It also increases your risk of abdominal fat gain and glucose intolerance, reduces your ability to learn, creates hormone imbalances and causes a wide range of other problems that can damage your health. Sleep provides an antidote to this stress hormone, giving your body a chance to heal and rebuild.
- Better mood – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating appetite, sleep and mood. It helps us feel contented and happy. Unfortunately, high levels of stress hormones result in lower levels of serotonin. Sleeping regularly helps us rebuild levels of this important neurotransmitter and feel happier overall.
- Monetary savings – One of the lesser known advantages of napping is saving money. Think of what you spend on coffee and energy boosters every week. By getting just a few minutes of sleep, you could cut out all those stimulants and enjoy the natural boost that comes with napping.
The benefits of napping may not be well known, but they’re definitely worth investigating. Read The Basic Sleep Stages: Non-REM and REM Sleep Cycles for related information.
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