Imagine a product that increases alertness, boosts creativity, reduces stress, improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy, enhances your sex life, helps you make better decisions, keeps you looking younger, aids in weight loss, reduces the risk of heart attack, elevates your mood, and strengthens memory. Now imagine that this product is nontoxic, has no dangerous side effects, and, best of all, is absolutely free.
This miracle drug is, in fact, nothing more than the nap: the right nap at the right time.
There are two biological processes that contribute to daily drowsiness. The first system is the circadian: It prompts you to stay awake when it’s light out and asleep when it’s dark. In the middle of the day, it causes the hormone cortisol to start decreasing from its morning high and your core body temperature to slightly dip; losing heat helps you fall and stay asleep. The second is the homeostatic: it makes you sleepier the longer you’ve been awake. As the day progresses, it continually increases your “sleep pressure”, causing you to have a growing need for sleep. Together, at mid day, these create “kind of a perfect storm that makes people tired”.
The benefits of napping show up in study after study. Here’s a link to a study published in one of the most respected journals, Nature.
Naps enhance creative problem-solving. Naps can boost and restore brain power. Toddlers who nap, express more joy. Adult nappers can tolerate frustration longer and feel less impulsive. Naps may help protect older people from cognitive decline and dementia. Runners can use naps to improve endurance. People who nap once or twice a week have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Memory is better after a nap. And on it goes.
To nap effectively set up a 20 minute alarm. It’s long enough to take you to Stage 2 sleep. Make yourself comfortable. Lie down if possible. Use an eye mask and ear plugs, if needed. Try to set aside your worries, perhaps by first engaging in a few minutes of mindful meditation. Breathe slowly and deeply. Concentrate on relaxing your muscles.
“Napping is not what lazy people do,” says Sara Mednick, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California at Irvine and author of “Take a Nap! Change Your Life.”. “It’s what people, who are really effective and creative and self-regulating and conscientious, do. Those are the type of people who nap.”