Throughout Latin America there is a daily, time-honored tradition called the siesta. If you’ve even been on vacation in a Latin American country and found that none of the shops were open after lunch time, it’s because the entire country has settled down for a well-deserved nap. Although predominantly associated with Latin American countries, this leisurely approach to the work day is commonplace throughout Eastern Europe and some Asian countries as well.
In America and England, life is more of a rat race so we’ve instituted the term “power nap” to describe this midday snooze because it better aligns with our Puritanical work ethic. Although the name has been changed there is still a bit of guilt associated with a midday nap. So most workday naps are done discreetly, and privately either in the back seat of a car or at a local park. At Sit ‘n Sleep, we believe that American nappers should come out of the shadows and be proud that they’ve chosen to take a 20-minute daily break to increase their productivity.
“Napping should not be frowned upon at the office or make you feel guilty at home,” writes Dr. James B. Maas, a psychologist and sleep expert at Cornell. “It should have the status of daily exercise.” He also extols the benefits of napping in his book, Power Sleep, “[naps] greatly strengthen the ability to pay close attention to details and to make critical decisions.” He also states that “naps taken about eight hours after you wake have been proved to do much more for you than if you added those 20 minutes onto already adequate nocturnal sleep.” Also, a study by NASA researchers found that a 26-minute flight nap improved alertness in their pilots by 54% and enhanced overall performance by 34%. A recent study by University of California, Berkeley found that an hour-long nap not only refreshes the mind, but actually makes you smarter.
How Long Should One Nap?
It is best to make sure to take your nap around midday because naps taken in the late afternoon can mess with your biological clock; making it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Your midday nap should be between 15 and 30 minutes in length. Longer naps allow your body to fall into the deeper levels of sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling groggy and more tired than when you lied down in the first place. A short, 20-minute nap will be of light sleep, which enhances alertness and concentration, elevates mood and sharpens motor skills. Exactly what you’re looking for on a typical hard day at the office, right?
Besides feeling refreshed and enhancing your mental acuity, a steady habit of napping can also help your cardiovascular health in the long-term. A recent study of over 23,000 Greek adults found that those who took a nap for 30 minutes at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who do not nap. It seems to be that the stress-relieving benefits of having a nap can help improve heart health. Some doctors believe that the stress relief that comes from napping may help prevent people from over eating, smoking and exercising less.
- It’s ok to wear a napping robe, but try not to layer on the blankets; excess warmth can make you oversleep.
- Set an alarm clock so your refreshing 20-30 minute nap doesn’t go too long and endanger your sleep that evening.
- Try to lay down for your nap; it’s more difficult to fall asleep while sitting up.
- Keep things quiet. If there is too much outside noise wear some ear plugs or put some headphones over your ears.
- Drink a cup of coffee before your nap. It takes about 35 min for caffeine to have an effect on you; therefore, you’ll wake at the right time and feel refreshed.