You might think that you got all you need to know from those times you fell asleep in your high school calculus class, but there is a lot more to napping than meets the eye.
You may be most familiar with the Spanish siesta. A cultural habit in Spain, as well as Spanish influence on other Hispanic countries and the Philippines, the word “siesta” derives from the Latin phrase hora sexta or “sixth hour” (counting from dawn, this is around midday). The concept also has a strong presence in Southern Italy, where museums, churches and shops close midday for riposo. In Japan, employees are often encouraged to take naps during the work day, not only to increase performance but also because the need for a nap supposedly shows that an employee is working hard.
Sleep itself is a vital necessity for our bodies and minds. Not getting enough sleep can cause physical health problems such as high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, weight gain, vulnerability to colds and flu, and even increased risk for more serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Risks for your brain include irritability, trouble focusing, poor reflexes, forgetfulness, and decreased coordination and balance. Continuous sleep deprivation is a problem and needs to be treated by lifestyle changes or a visit to a doctor, but naps can help temporarily remedy some of the side effects.
Additionally, napping offers many benefits for those who more or less get a good amount of sleep but want a little boost during the day. Taking brief naps at a seasonable time during the day has proven to increase alertness, improve the ability to perform tasks, improve overall mood, increase creativity, and increase memory performance.
Think of it as a form of resetting your system. In fact, the idea that we are supposed to have one big sleep at night and stay awake until the following night is a relatively new one. Scientists now say we are actually hardwired to take naps or at least have more than one sleep per 24 hour cycle, and historians have found some evidence to back up this claim.
And while we’re talking about naps, here are some helpful tips to take a great one every day:
– Nap at a regular time: Studies show the best time to nap is in the middle of the day, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
– Don’t make it long: Set an alarm on your phone for an amount between 20 and 30 minutes. Any more than 30 minutes and you will likely wake up feeling groggy for up to an hour after your wake, possibly for the rest of the day.
– Make sure to block out the light: Make sure the room you nap in is as dark as you can make it, or wear a sleeping mask. Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster and have a more restful nap. (You can even get blackout curtains for your room for optimal sleep/nap conditions.)
– Keep yourself cozy: You sleep better when you’re comfortably warm, so keep a blanket on hand wherever you take your naps to keep out the chill.
Still feeling guilty about the possibility of a regular nap schedule? Here are famous people who were pro-nappers:
– Winston Churchill
– Thomas Edison
– John F. Kennedy
– Eleanor Roosevelt
– Napoleon Bonaparte
– Salvador Dali
– Albert Einstein
So go on, learn all about napping with this nifty infographic, then have yourself a nice siesta. Chances are, you need it.
Fore more scientific studies and useful information on napping, check out any of these articles:
Featured photo credit: Napping/Patio Productions via patioproductions.com