Several studies have proven that after a nap, you are twice as likely to have the cognitive or physical ability to complete a task, resolve a problem or create an idea as you were before you slept. These same studies have shown that napping can improve your mood, reduces stress on the immune system and prevent sickness, lower frustration and stress levels, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and help with short and long term memory. Naps have also been scientifically proven to fight off sleepiness far better than caffeine. Sleep is a much safer, healthier alternative. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali were known for taking naps to increase their cognitive and creative abilities!
You don’t need science to tell you that, more often than not, you are not getting enough sleep at night. Naps are a healthy way to bridge the gap left by poor nighttime sleep patterns. And while a lengthy sleep at night is best, a short nap during the day is equally important. The optimum nap time is 20-30 minutes but excessive napping can sometimes have the opposite effect from taking a short nap, for example, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in the elderly.
When done properly, napping has many physical, emotional and mental benefits. But it’s not always as simple as dropping everything you’re doing and closing your eyes. Here are five things to remember when taking a nap:
- Nap early in the day: Your personal circadian rhythm, that is, your internal 24-hour clock that runs in your brain (aka the sleep-wake cycle), will let you know when your optimum nap time is, but early afternoon is typically best in order to be tired again for bedtime.
- Keep it short: Health experts suggest the optimum length of time for a nap is between 20-30 minutes. If you nap for any longer, you are defeating the purpose of a nap, encouraging grogginess and irritability when you waken.
- Nap horizontally: While it may be more convenient to take a nap in your favourite easy chair, you will reap the most benefit by lying down, preferably in a bed, for 20-30 minutes.
- Create a relaxing atmosphere: As you should at bed time, create a relaxed space for sleeping. Use lavender oils, put on soothing sounds of nature at low volume (if that works for you), have a cup of herbal tea before you nap … use whatever works for you to increase relaxation before you lie down.
- Make naps routine: Studies show that routine nappers experience less post-nap sleep inertia (that groggy feeling after you waken) than those who do not nap regularly. Keeping naps routine will make it easier for you to transition quickly back to your daily tasks after a nap and maintain higher cognitive function throughout the rest of your day.