Most of us push through the day no matter how tired we are. But should we indulge in an afternoon siesta instead? It seems like science is now backing this long-held European tradition, and it’s about time Americans got on board, too.
You’re Not Too Old for Naps
Maybe we shun naps because that’s what babies and kids do. Naptime keeps little ones from throwing temper tantrums, and it ensures that they grow and develop properly. But it’s really no different for us adults.
Without enough sleep – yes, even an afternoon snooze – our stress levels rise, we become irritable, and our brain and motor skills suffer.
It’s true that our lifestyle and busy schedules don’t make room for naps, but once you learn about the many health benefits, you’ll want to add napping to your agenda.
Naps Help You Stay Slim
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body runs low on leptin, a hormone that promotes feelings of fullness.
Sleep deprivation also leads to a rise in the hormone, ghrelin. And that’s no good, because ghrelin increases feelings of hunger. So, if you’re over tired, you’ll feel both empty and hungry, and that will lead to overeating.
These two studies from both Japan and Columbia back this up, so get your beauty sleep!
Naps Improve Motor Skill and Alertness
When you don’t sleep enough, it’s hard to make decisions and concentrate. You stumble over your words and make more mistakes. But running on empty can result in much more serious situations. Many accidents and unfortunate incidents are blamed on sleep deprivation.
So, when you feel tired, give your brain what it needs and allow it to rest. Even if it’s only a ten to twenty-minute nap. It can make all the difference.
In an interview with Oprah, Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, explains that “if you’ve been up for 17-19 hours, you have the cognitive impairment equivalent of a 0.05 percent blood alcohol level.”
We all know we shouldn’t work or drive when we’re intoxicated, but a lot of us still work and drive when we’re sleep deprived!
Boost Your Energy
Unfortunately, many people don’t have the opportunity to nap when they’re tired. So instead, they reach for caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and energy drinks.
While this gives you a short boost of energy, it can interrupt your nightly sleep cycles. What’s more, these drinks are often loaded with sugars, which can lead to energy crashes later.
Keep Your Brain Younger
Studies from the American Health in Ageing Foundation found that adults who slept for an hour each afternoon had an easier time doing math, geometry and memorization tasks.
The adults who didn’t nap performed worse on the same tasks. What’s more, their brains experienced a cognitive decline as though they were five years older.
Improve Your Sex Life
Sleep deprivation can lead to lower levels of testosterone. This is the hormone responsible for men and women’s sex drive.
So, too little sleep means a lower libido and less fun in the bedroom.
Support Your Heart Health
The Harvard School of Public Health found that naps can lower the amount of deaths due to heart disease by almost 40%.
Of course, other factors weigh in on your heart health, like diet, smoking and exercise. However, it’s clear that a simple nap, when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices, can support heart health.
Naps Help You Destress
A little siesta helps you relax and release tension. They can help you return to your day refreshed, recharged and calmer.
And when you lower your stress, you can also lower the stress hormone, cortisol. This is great news because too much cortisol in the body can lead to weight gain, and disrupt hormone production like oxytocin and testosterone – two key hormones for the wellbeing of women and men.
Fight Off Illness with Nap Time
This study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that a thirty minute nap can balance and normalize your norepinephrine and interleikin-6 levels.
What does this mean? Norepinephrine is a stress hormone, and when there’s too much of it in the body, your blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate go up. So, napping helps to keep this hormone under wraps.
Interleukin-6 is a protein that helps your body defend itself against viruses. And adequate sleep makes sure your body has it in good supply.
Improve Your Mood
You know how awful it feels to be tired. You’re grouchy, irritable, groggy and confused.
A nap can help you feel like your old self again. Just try to remove the shame around napping. 85% of mammals take naps during the day, so don’t feel bad if you need a nap, too.
How to Optimize Nap Time
Now that you know just how amazing a short and sweet nap is, it’s time to learn what you can do to make the most out of your naptime.
- Only Nap in the Afternoon: Now, if you’re fighting sheer exhaustion in the morning or evening, take a nap. It can prevent small or serious accidents from happening. But if it’s just a normal day and you’re feeling tired, try to nap between 1 and 3 PM. This way, you won’t interfere with your evening sleep cycles and you’ll sleep soundly at night.
- Set a Timer: You can take a ten minute nap or sixty minute nap. It depends on what works best for you and how much sleep you need. For most people, thirty minutes is perfect. Whatever your ideal nap time is, make sure you set an alarm so that you get enough sleep, but not too much. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling groggy instead of refreshed.
- Find a Good Place to Sleep: To enjoy restorative sleep, nap in a cool space. It shouldn’t be cold, just comfortable. It should also be dark, but not pitch black. If it’s too dark, you’ll probably sleep too deeply.
It’s time to remove the stigma from naps. And if you need to take one, you should. It doesn’t make you a lazy sloth. It will improve your health and lead to a more productive and enjoyable day.