Most people feel sleepy during the day and getting a nap in the afternoon can be a great solution. Still, napping is much more than a quick way to reduce fatigue. Napping has a host of benefits for personal wellness and overall health.
Reduces the effect of lack of sleep
Many people simply don’t get enough sleep due to insomnia, busy schedules, or external factors like background noise. The effects of sleep deprivation can produce irritability, decreased concentration, lethargy, and even increased sensitivity to pain. A short nap in the late afternoon compensates for the hours of sleep that are missing at night, reducing these symptoms and increasing the feeling of rest.
Helps keeping your biological clock updated
The human body normally feels tired in the afternoon, yet many of us feel too busy or somehow guilty that we need to sleep. But following your body’s natural rhythm and taking a much-needed afternoon nap can make you more productive the rest of the day.
Those who suffer from depression often experience worsening symptoms due to lack of sleep. But everyone can benefit from a better mood thanks to the benefits of napping. A nap can increase the production of serotonin, which is known as the happiness hormone.
Even something seemingly simple like closing your eyes for twenty minutes or so can give an immediate and powerful boost to your alertness and motor skills. After a nap you can feel a wave of energy. The results show that a nap increases your attention by 54%.
A nap can increase the production of a hormone that blocks certain chemicals caused by stress. It can help reduce physical and mental stress, which in turn helps reduce the risk of heart disease. A recent study showed that sweating (produced during naps for example) had a positive effect on levels of nerepinephrine, a stress hormone, which has been linked to increased heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Albert Einstein, and Margaret Thatcher are huge napping supporters and highly successful people. Even companies like Google are introducing rules that allow their employees to take a short nap while at work. Time spent sleeping is easily recaptured in the productivity boost that immediately follows.
Along with the clear physical benefits, the nap is also a psychological blow for the anxiety and stress accumulated during the day. They can often act as a break from everyday life, where one can gain clarity and distance from problems. It can also help to come back to a problem in your mind and get your ideas straight.
Researchers have discovered that the brain uses sleep to reactivate nerve connections used in concentration, which not only increases memory for newly acquired skills and competencies, but allows them to work better after sleep. This means that after a nap, what was recently learned is consolidated and the brain is better able to focus its full attention on the following tasks.
Studies have shown that napping actually has a positive effect on short-term memory. Students receive new information and those who fall asleep immediately afterwards retain 10% better the knowledge they have learned. Even more interesting is that when testing at two- and five-day intervals, data retention remains equally high. The students who did not nap did not retain the information as well in the following days.
One study found evidence that napping is a way to combat headaches. Also, insufficient sleep or lack of sleep can lead to migraines and headaches and napping is a good way to counter this. The study also showed that napping is a coping mechanism for frequent migraines and severe headaches.
Stimulates the immune system
Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the immune system. Lack of sleep negatively affects a molecule that regulates the immune system called y-terleukin-6, and napping is an effective way to stimulate it in the body. This may mean that afternoon sleepers are at less risk of catching a cold or getting sick, which benefits both body and mental health and productivity.
Lowers blood pressure
According to another study, a 30- to 40-minute afternoon nap can help lower blood pressure after a stressful event and can significantly improve heart health. There also appears to be some association between napping and reduced prescribing of high blood pressure medications. Sleeping in the afternoon can be a factor in reducing the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Beautify the skin
During sleep, the body regenerates skin cells, which can lead to fresher, healthier skin that looks younger. Napping more frequently can also reduce dark circles, brighten the eyes and give them the desired shine.
Helps to lose weight
For this to happen, bedtime is key. Getting enough sleep in the afternoon can help dieters break through the danger zone of overeating and wake up feeling refreshed and satisfied. Napping also helps the body better absorb sugar and carbohydrates.
Reduces dependence on caffeine
Although caffeine can make you feel more alert, it can actually reduce the effectiveness of key brain functions like memory. The next time you have a cup of coffee, consider swapping it for a short nap for a similar effect. Also, a short afternoon nap is better than an expresso, as it’s much less likely to affect your ability to fall asleep that night. Napping is a healthy and natural way to increase energy and suppress sleepiness.
How long is the perfect nap?
The perfect nap should not be as long and rich as the great writer Camilo José Cela used to say, in his pajamas and potty. Actually, the nap should not last more than 20-25 minutes. If you sleep more, you will enter the deep sleep phase (and this is exactly what you should avoid), which often leads to a heavier awakening and a feeling of sluggishness. It is better to turn on the alarm so that you do not fall asleep soundly.
Pick the right time as taking a midday or early afternoon nap can give you an energy boost. Choosing one in the late afternoon can disrupt your sleep cycle.