Squeezing a quick nap into our day is something which we have probably all tried to do at some point in order to help relieve the feeling of being utterly exhausted and help recharge the batteries.
Napping has actually been around for a number of years and happens rather frequently across some cultures where afternoon siestas are the norm.
Sleep in the pre-1900s era, for example, was quite different to how it is in the present day. People would often go to sleep for a few hours in the early evening and would then wake up a few hours later and use this period of time to spend with friends, family and neighbours or to read and write prayers before going back to sleep until the morning. Find out more about the evolution of sleep disturbances and how this has impacted our sleep patterns over time by heading to our infographic here.
However, did you know that there are actually a number of benefits to taking forty winks during the day? Researchers have said a quick 10-20 minute nap or a longer 90-minute rest (which includes a complete sleep cycle) could actually help to promote mental and physiological advantages.
So let’s look at ten good reasons to justify why taking an afternoon nap might be a good idea to incorporate into the day.
1. Improved memory and learning
Quick naps are especially useful while studying or taking in new information. According to this Sleep Junkies article, during the early stages of sleep, the brain will begin to clear out adenosine, a chemical which is created during learning meaning that once we wake up, the brain has a better ability to take in more information.
A longer nap of 60-90 minutes is even more useful for imitating a good quality night’s sleep, helping you to learn even quicker. Therefore, if you’re stuck at your desk trying to revise or are working on a difficult project, then either a quick or longer nap could re-energise the brain and help you to be more productive!
2. Increased alertness
It’s very easy to lose energy throughout the day, particularly by the time it gets to the afternoon. However, napping is a great way of combatting drowsiness, especially if you’re trying to work or study in order to refresh your mind and promote wakefulness.
As quoted in WebMD’s article, Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D., sleep expert and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life says that: “You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost.”
3. A Reduced risk of heart disease
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine back in 2007 stated that taking an afternoon nap could help to reduce the risk of death resulting from heart disease by up to 34%.
While it’s too soon to say that napping could prevent heart disease, the study’s results do offer more reasons to nap according to Dimitrios Trichopoulos of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston who led the study.
4. Improved sensory perception
Sara C. Mednick also highlighted that not only is alertness increased due to napping, but it can also help to restore the sensitivity of sight, hearing and taste.
Creativity too can be improved, as taking a nap can help to rest and relax the mind, which helps the brain to form new associations. Virtual mentor Michael Hyatt says in his blog that research carried out by the City University of New York found that when looking at making new connections, those who had napped performed better at the task.
5. Burnout prevention
Hyatt also suggests that another benefit to napping due to the fact that we live in a culture which is always on the go which may lead to increased stress and ultimately burnout, napping “is like a system reboot”.
Those who napped also appeared to demonstrate emotional resilience and better cognitive function as part of research which was carried out, which those who didn’t nap did not exhibit as significantly.
6. Weight control
Not getting your full quota of sleep could impact on gaining weight more quickly which napping could actually help to prevent.
This is because getting the right amount of sleep helps to regulate the hormones which affect and control your appetite. However, when the body is deprived of sleep, the normal hormone balances are disrupted.
The body reacts by increasing the hormone ghrelin, causing the feeling of hunger, especially a craving for higher calorie and fattier foods and which reduces the production of leptin, which is responsible for making us feel full.
This could be why you feel a strong desire to want to treat yourself to a snack from the biscuit tin during the afternoon, therefore, a quick nap will help to reduce the feeling of being sleep deprived as well as feeling peckish!
7. Prolonged ageing
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just cause us to feel hungry, but can also lead to dry and dull looking skin.
As sleep is important in helping to repair and restore skin cells, naps can help to transform tired skin into a more youthful and glowing appearance!
8. Reduced caffeine cravings
Sleep Junkies’ article also highlights that when we are sleep deprived, we are much more likely to consume an excess of caffeine in an attempt to try and keep us feeling fresh.
Increased alcohol consumption is another result of sleep deprivation as we try to re-energise our bodies, which as you’ll be aware isn’t the healthiest or most effective way of trying to feel awake and alert. Taking a nap is, therefore, a much healthier alternative to combatting drowsiness.
9. Increased productivity
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s the afternoon which is when we can often experience a loss of energy which can mean that our concentration and performance levels are down.
However Hyatt’s article looking at the benefits of napping comments upon a study conducted by Harvard University back in 2002 in which it showed that a half an hour nap helped to boost the performance of workers to the level of productivity at the start of the day.
10. Mood enhancement
Not only do the effects of an afternoon nap help you to feel more energised and productive for the rest of the day, but napping, very importantly, helps to improve your mood and leave you feeling happier!
Stress and agitation which can come as a result of being sleep deprived can be reduced by incorporating even the smallest of naps into the working day in order to make you feel much more relaxed and able to tackle the day. The more clear-headed and positive you are, the more effectively you’ll be able to work!
As you can see, there are actually a lot of benefits to taking a quick afternoon nap which you might not have thought about before. Therefore, next time the feeling of tiredness appears to be overwhelming you and lessening your levels of productivity, why not try giving your body the quick recharge it needs and take a nap!