napping on hammock

The Hidden Powers Of Napping

December 01, 2017

The power of the nap; in today's workaholic Western Culture napping is frowned upon. We associate napping with a lazy person passed out on the couch after eating a giant greasy burger.

"Naps are pointless and unambitious"

Truth is...

Your cat knows something you don't. Humans are among the few mammals that take their sleep in one cycle. Nearly 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, meaning short sleep periods throughout the day.

napping outside

Feeling drowsy?

Feeling dazed?

You could go for a brisk walk or pour a cup of coffee. The latest research is suggesting that a nap could be the most effective method to combat daytime sleepiness. In an experiment, subjects that took an hour nap before a verbal-recall test scored higher compared to people that received caffeine or a placebo (Behavioural Brain Research, 2008). Caffeine does enhance alertness and attention, but naps are healthier, help with brain function, and strengthens memory.

The National Sleep Foundation provided a study conducted by NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. The results found that after a 40-minute nap the pilots and astronauts improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.

Circadian Rhythm

Why do we get tired? We get tired due to the release of melatonin located in the brain. The hypothalamus releases melatonin, which is controlled by the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is our internal clock. It's in charge of our sleep and wakefulness cycle. Long story short, your body release melatonin at certain times of the day, usually coincides with day and night, making you sleepy.

Being a night-shift person, I struggle to fight the biological clock. My body is barking orders at 11 p.m to go sleep, but I'm occupied taking care of my patients. Due to an irregular sleep schedule, I find naps to be an effective alternative for full alertness. Working 7 pm to 7 am, the day of work I like to doze off for 20-30 minutes before preparing for work.

Tips on napping.

  1. Keep it short. Ideal nap time is 20-30 minutes. If you sleep past 30 minutes, you risk waking up with the post-sleep grogginess that is difficult to shake off.
  2. Find a dark area. Reducing light is beneficial to knockout faster.
  3. Plan on your naps. Developing a regular nap routine can make it easier to fall asleep and to wake up.
  4. Don't feel guilty. A mindful nap can be great to be more productive.

Closing thoughts

It would be fantastic to have a kindergarten setting of milk, cookies, and a floor mat to take a nap in the afternoon. In the real world, we have developed a stigma around naps. They are related to being lazy and unmotivated. Be mindful. Be you. Don't believe false statements. I think everyone should find a soothing 20 minutes around their busy schedule and incorporate naps. If you do, I'd love to hear your feedback!

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