Go Ahead, Take That Nap
Everyone knows the feeling. Right after lunch, that sleepy feeling overtakes you. It is hard to focus on tasks and time drags. There is a cure that doesn't involve sucking down a high-energy drink or downing half a pot of coffee. Either of these can leave you wide-eyed and jittery as a cat in a room full of mousetraps. Maybe you should try a little nap to clear the noggin and restore the brain to alertness. Recent studies have shown that a nap as short as ten minutes can be more beneficial than caffeine or energy drinks.
Polyphasic and Monophasic
Most mammals are polyphasic. Their brains have adapted to several sleep times throught the day. Think about your pet cat that can lie around all day sleeping, and then come nosing around on your bed at four o'clock AM. About 85% of mammals fall into this category. Humans are monophasic. This means that their brains organize the day into two distinct cycles, sleep, and wakefulness. Generally, after sixteen hours of wakefulness, humans begin to feel sleepy. They need about eight hours of sleep to satisfy their needs.
Two Different Kinds of People
Researchers have found that there are two groups of sleepers. Natural nappers have no trouble falling into a short, restful sleep. They awake feeling naturally refreshed and full of vigor. For these people that daytime nap is important. They have a hard time functioning without it. Many natural nappers reach for caffeine or energy drinks to try to restore alertness. Most natural nappers would benefit much more from a short snooze. Non-nappers have a hard time trying to nap. They do not fall asleep readily. When they do, they fall into a deep sleep right away. They awake with a severe case of sleep inertia, the term for that period of post-sleep grogginess that can be hard to shake.
Benefits of Napping
Researchers have found six main benefits to taking a short nap:
. Productivity Increase
. A short nap increases alertness
. Memory and learning ability improve
. Creativity boost
. Naps act as antidepressants
. Naps can reduce stress
Shift work can also interfere with sleep patterns and many shift workers can benefit from a nap before going to work. Timing the intake of caffeine can make a difference. Caffeine does not become effective immediately. Drinking some coffee just before napping might allow the caffeine to kick in just as you wake up. Many companies are beginning to understand the importance of a short, mid-afternoon nap. They provide sleep pods or other methods to encourage it.
Stigma against Naps
In the United States, a stigma has developed against napping. In general, people feel that napping people are lazy and lack ambition. Many also feel that naps are only for young children and the elderly. However, many famous, productive people have been nappers. These include Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and George W. Bush. So if you take naps, you are in good company, with several Presidents and scientists as compatriots.
Can Be a Sign of Health Problems
Grogginess during the day can also be a sign of health problems. Parkinson's disease, diabetes, depression, and chronic pain, can all signal their presence with daytime sleepiness. Researchers have linked an increased mortality rate for people with heart problems that nap. In the past, many have blamed napping for these diseases and deaths. Today most feel that napping is only a symptom, not the cause.
If you would like to take advantage of the benefits of a short, daytime snooze, here are some tips to help:
. Find a quiet, dark spot
. The room should be at a comfortable temperature
. Try to do it at the same time each day
. Keep it short, no more than ninety minutes. Some people benefit from as little as ten minutes.
. Don't nap too late in the day, as it can interfere with nighttime sleep.
So the next time your boss catches you sleeping at your desk cite these studies and tell him that you are just trying to be a better employee. Who knows, he might just promote you.
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