Midday Dozing and Why You Should Do It
Spaniards take siestas; Germans enjoy ein Schläfchen; Japanese professionals like to power snooze. For years, napping has been derided as a sign of laziness. We are “caught” napping or “found asleep at the switch”. But lately it has garnered new respect, thanks to scientific evidence that midday dozing benefits both mental acuity and overall health. A slew of recent studies have shown that naps boost alertness, creativity, mood, and productivity in the later hours of the day.
“Hey, I’m not being lazy. I’m napping for 20 minutes so I’m killer productive for the next few hours. That makes sense, right? No use being drowsy and irritated for those hours,I’ll be an attentive, productive part of the workplace.”
Our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness: in the early morning, from about 2am to 4am, and in the afternoon, between 1pm and 3pm. This midday wave of drowsiness is not due to heat or a heavy lunch (it occurs even if we skip eating) but from an afternoon quiescent phase in our physiology, which diminishes our reaction time, memory, coordination, mood, and alertness.
[info]When to Nap? Are you a lark or an owl?[/info]
To determine the best time to nap, it helps to know your “chronotype”. What time would you get up and go to sleep if you were entirely free to plan your day? If you’re a lark, apt to wake as early as 6am and go to sleep around 9pm or 10pm, you’re going to feel your nap need around 1pm or 1.30 pm.
If you’re an owl, preferring to go to bed after midnight or 1am, and to wake around 8am or 9am, your afternoon “sleep gate” will open later, closer to 2.30pm or 3pm. “This period is known as the post-lunch dip,”
[info]Learning to Nap[/info]
Just as you can learn to meditate or use deep-breathing techniques for relaxation, you can train yourself to nap.
“Napping is just like any other skill—the more you practice, the better you get,” said William Anthony, executive director of the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and vice-president of the Napping Company, an advocacy organization that conducts workshops on the benefits of napping.
[info]How Long Is A Good Nap?[/info]
THE NANO-NAP: 10 to 20 seconds Sleep studies haven’t yet concluded whether there are benefits to these brief intervals, like when you nod off on someone’s shoulder on the train.
THE MICRO-NAP: two to five minutes Shown to be surprisingly effective at shedding sleepiness.
THE MINI-NAP: five to 20 minutes Increases alertness, stamina, motor learning, and motor performance.
THE ORIGINAL POWER NAP: 20 minutes Includes the benefits of the micro and the mini, but additionally improves muscle memory and clears the brain of useless built-up information, which helps with long-term memory (remembering facts, events, and names).
THE LAZY MAN’S NAP: 50 to 90 minutes Includes slow-wave plus REM sleep; good for improving perceptual processing; also when the system is flooded with human growth hormone, great for repairing bones and muscles.