The Scientific Benefits of Napping
Go ahead, just do it
Sometimes you want to do nothing more than take a nap. But that guilty voice in your head stops you. You have so much to do. A nap seems too decadent.
Don't let that stop you any longer. There are scientific reasons that prove napping is beneficial, from decreasing inflammation to lowering your blood pressure and improving your emotional well-being.
All about napping
The ideal nap is as little as 10-20 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. "The only thing that everyone agrees upon is that sleeping more than an hour will move the body past light, non-REM sleep into a deeper sleep, and should therefore be avoided," said Dr. Scott Weiss, a licensed physical therapist, board certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist.
"The best time to nap is in the middle of the day. The average adult is awake for an average of 16 hours per day, so it would be best to take a nap after 5 - 8 hours of being awake to sustain optimal function. If that cannot be done, than anytime throughout the day it's fine as long as you find the appropriate time. I would advise to be careful not to take a nap too close to bedtime because it may interfere with falling asleep, which can then wreak havoc on a normal sleeping pattern," he said.
Dr. Weiss said that napping has definite pros, and very few cons:
Pros of napping
Improved Memory: Naps help promote memory through the process of consolidation, which is your brain’s way of strengthening emotional memory stores during sleep. This means that whatever you did, learned or experience in the early hours of being awake will be hardwired into memory much better than if you would wait to sleep at night.
Decreased Blood Pressure: People that take an afternoon siesta exhibit a 37% decrease in coronary mortality and a decrease in cardiac stress. Aside being helpful to the normal person, this can be extremely beneficial to people suffering from cardiac and blood pressure problems
Muscle Rest and Recovery: Napping can help improve physical performance by restoring glucose levels and getting rid of factions within the muscles. Research on football players that slept up to 10 hours a day showed improve times with sprinting and quicker refresh times.
Decrease inflammation: Sleeping can decrease inflammation in the body that can cause pain and ultimately decrease bodily injury. This means that the more regularly some one naps, the less aches and pains they will feel in their day-to-day routine. This is also an excellent, natural way those suffering from inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, can relieve pain.
Emotional Improvement: The body’s serotonin levels have been shown to replenish during sleep, which means even a power nap can help those levels spike. Things such as moods, reactions, fearfulness and overall sense of well-being have all been shown to improve for those that nap more regularly.
Increase In Sleep Hours And Increase In Life Expectancy for Women: For those that have trouble sleeping at night, or are narcoleptic, an afternoon nap is the way to go. The body realistically needs greater 7.5 hours of sleep to function at optimal levels, so for problems sleeps, naps can add the extra hours that are missed at night. Furthermore, studies have shown that life expectancy among women 50 -79 years old that slept six and a half hours or more was actually greater compared to those who slept less than 5 hours.
Cons of napping
Oversleeping: Oversleeping can wreak havoc on your day-to-day routine because plans, appointments, and even work can be slept through if one is not careful.
Habit Forming: When things become routine, or habitual, they can create a problem when they are no longer there. People that rely on daily naps can experience unwanted sleepiness and lethargy if their nap schedule is interrupted. This fatigue can follow them throughout the day and can affect performance.
Fogginess: Napping greater than one hour will make it harder to wake up, and can leave one in a bit of a haze or fog. This is due to the fact that the body enters a deep, REM sleep after one hour, and disrupting that can leave one sleepy, sluggish, forgetful and make it significantly difficult to physically function.
Wellness and weight loss
You can even sleep your way to wellness and weight loss, according to Robin Palmer, a sleep expert and president of My Successables Studies.
"Sleep deprivation is a leading factor in diabetes, heart disease and other debilitating and life-threatening diseases. Lack of sleep weakens your immune system, increases abdominal fat and glucose intolerance, and messes with your memory and cognitive abilities," Palmer said.
"Sleep releases growth hormone, your body's own elixir for stress relief, weight loss, and boosting your immune system," she said.
So go ahead. Take a nap. It will make you feel better and increase your serotonin levels.