I love naps! Really, I do. There’s nothing like one, maybe in a hammock under a tree with filtered sun peeking through, a gentle breeze… yup I love naps!
There is a good way and a not so good way to nap though. Or perhaps a better way to talk about them would be to share that different lengths of naps have different effects on your mind, body and energy levels.
Science points out that approximately 85% of all mammalian species sleep more than once a day, and scientists are not completely clear if humans are naturally monophasic as opposed to polyphasic. I’ve read a few articles on this including one regarding split sleep – that it’s natural for humans to sleep for a few hours (late evening til about midnight), then get up and do work for a few hours, then back to sleep for a few more and then rise again in the early (7-8 am) morning. For some people this is very “normal”.
Let’s get back to napping, no I mean the topic of naps, not actually napping. That can happen after you read about the types of naps and their individual effects. 🙂
10-20 min nap: aka The Power Nap. This nap will help you to boost your energy and alertness. Usually it will also keep you at the lighter stages of sleep. Non-rapid eye movement sleep (in other words), which helps you to easily wake up feeling refreshed. My Dad was an excellent power napper, but I’ve never felt it works for me.
30 mins: With this length of nap you might experience some grogginess, or even a hungover feeling. Usually though that feeling only last about 30 mins before you feel the restorative effects of the nap. Taking a short walk (about 15-20 mins) after you wake up can actually push that grogginess away faster and enhance the alertness you achieved from the nap.
60 mins: This nap length may also cause you some grogginess when you first wake up, but its benefits include improving your memory, thus allowing you to better remember facts, faces and names. Taking a nap after studying as been shown to improve retention and recall of the studied material.
90 mins: This is a full cycle of sleep nap. It probably will include the lighter and deeper stages of sleep, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which is where dreaming takes place. This nap can improve creativity, and your emotional and procedures memory (driving a car, playing an instrument). You’ll usually wake up from this length of nap without feeling groggy.
It’s quite clear that many humans suffer from a lack of sleep for various reasons, one of which very well may be that we don’t take time out during the day to have a nap. Especially in the North American culture.
Various studies have clearly outlined the many health benefits associated with napping. For example, a 2008 study showed that naps are better than caffeine for improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning.
A NASA study from 1995 looked at the beneficial effects of napping on 747 pilots. Each participant was allowed to nap for 40 minutes during the day, sleeping on average for 25.8 minutes (which is just about right). Nappers “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses compared to the No-Rest Group.”
In a study carried out in Greece, researchers found that adult males who took an afternoon nap at least three times per week were 37% less likely to die from a heart related disease compared to men who never take a short afternoon nap.
So don’t let anyone ever tell you that naps are only for young children, or are a waste of time. I fully believe naps are beneficial in so many ways. You do have to take care though that you don’t nap too close to your usual bed time, especially if you’re going for that longer 90 min nap! That can disrupt how well you sleep that night. I usually find a nap where I wake up no later than 2 in the afternoon won’t disrupt my sleep later that night. After that time I risk it being disrupted and waking up the next morning not feeling rested because I either had trouble falling asleep or woke up very early and couldn’t get back to sleep.
Oh, that mention of the nap in the hammock at the beginning of this blog, put those trees and hammock close to water and I won’t be able to stay awake! I love napping in nature whenever I can, but if getting out to a great spot in nature isn’t feasible I do have a very comfy couch! 😉
Enjoy your naps!
Disfrutar de su siesta! (Spanish)
Profiter de votre sieste! (French)
Xiǎngshòu nǐ de wǔshuì (Chinese, simplified)