Sometimes a good nap during the day is very much needed, naps feel good and they’re good for you, and this is why we decided to look at the health benefits of it for this weeks healthy habit. The Spanish are famous for their afternoon siestas, naps have been a thing for centuries.
It’s always best to get a good nights sleep as sleep deprivation is pretty bad for your body and your mind. You can read our post on healthy sleep habits here. But naturally it’s not always possible. So if you find you’re not getting enough sleep, a nap might be a little lifeline during the day to get you through, and even if you do sleep enough naps can elevate your wellbeing. Extra sleep boosts your memory and reduces stress so even if you take a little nap at work it can be well worth it for your productivity.
Napping can make you more alert. Studies have found that your alertness can improve by 100% after a 40minute nap, and a 20 minute nap is more effective than having caffeine or exercise. Having a nap split up your day can also boost your energy in the second half of your day. A 90 minute nap brings you into REM sleep which helps to create new connections in your brain that can help solve creative problems. Different time lengths have different benefits.
Naps can also improve your memory functions, from your working memory (the kind you use while doing complex tasks while needing to remember things) and for memory retention. It has been found that if you nap after learning something, you can retain that information five times better than than by staying awake. While we sleep recent memories get transferred to the neocortex and are implanted in the mind and stored.
Sleep deprivation can lead to build up of cortisol in the body which has a knock on effect that can ultimately lead to diabetes and heart disease. And when you do get sleep you release growth hormone into your body which is the antidote to the effects of cortisol - boosting your immune system, reducing your stress, and aiding in muscle repair. Therefore when you nap you are giving your body its best shot at healing in all aspects.
Napping can also improve your mood by giving your brain a nice serotonin bath. Serotonin regulates our mood, sleep and appetites and produces feelings of contentment. And by having more rest we’re more likely to be nicer to others also boosting our other happy hormones like oxytocin.
While we sleep we also clean our brains of deposits of B-Amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s predicted that people with Alzheimer’s will increase by 40% over the next twelve years. Scientists are still looking into what the disease is all about but obviously getting more sleep time (no matter when) could definitely help.
If you do want to take a nap it’s best to time it around a light nap of 20 minutes or a longer nap of 90. In a 20minute nap you’ll feel more alert, you can have enhanced performance at any tasks you need to complete and you’ll feel happier. If you sleep for 90mins you’ll feel refreshed and could be more creative. Anything in-between that and you end up in the deeper stages of sleep and it can definitely be a lot harder to wake up in those stages without feeling groggy. Naps that are between 30 & 60 minutes aren’t really beneficial to you.
The best time to nap is usually an hour to two after lunch at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon when your blood sugar starts to dip. The best place would be a cool, dark and quiet room as this environment will help you fall asleep as fast as possible. Set a little alarm for yourself and wake up feeling energised.
HOW DID IT GO?
I do remember how much I loved a good nap as a teenager. At that age it’s most definitely needed - as teenage brains are going through their most intense growth period and only sleep really helps with this. Luckily I’m past that stage but still clearly there are health benefits at any age to having a nap. I didn’t get much opportunity to nap this last week as I had a jam packed week of work, exercise and social events. Though I did manage to nap two or three times. One 90 minute nap at the weekend and a couple of 20minute naps on the train to work and when I finally got home after my super long days. All of which were very appreciated due to the intensity of the week.
They definitely boosted my mood and helped me remember little necessary things to complete tasks for the day, as well as helping me to solve some creative problems I needed to develop ideas for. So while it’s definitely not the easiest thing to fit into your day if you’re busy, it’s definitely a worthwhile thing to fit into the day when you can, and if it’s possible to build it into your routine - even better. I can see with Christmas coming up next month that I might make ample opportunity of the time off during the festive season to make the most of power naps.