The Benefits of Napping
Normally nap takers are considered lazy, but some famous figures known specially for their naps include Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, and John F. Kennedy. Taking a nap at the office on a break can be beneficial. You may produce better work results, feel more alive, and stay awake more easily. More than 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep in segments and not all at once. But for humans, missing sleep can affect:
- Reaction time
- Information processing
- Short-term memory
Napping can support a healthy sleep cycle by:
- Restoring alertness, enhancing performance, and reducing mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
- Increasing alertness in the period directly following the nap, and possibly extending alertness a few hours later in the day.
- Assisting with health conditions. Scheduled napping has also been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy.
- Providing psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.
Mid afternoon naps can help combat sleepiness, improve work performance, and help you overcome that late afternoon grogginess. Naps are a great way to make up for lost night time sleep. Some studies have even suggested that sleep taken in divided segments is even better than sleep taken in single segments. In many cultures (especially in Mexico, Spain, and Japan) it's typical to divide sleep into two segments.
The Bio Clock
Contrary to popular belief, an afternoon nap doesn't affect the biological clock and night time sleeping. For most people the sleep/wake cycle means 16 hours awake. But they don't realize that the body's clock is set with two distinctive dips in alertness at 2am and 2pm (this one corresponding to the midday dip). During these times, staying awake is especially difficult.
Consider the airline pilot. Mark Rosekind, PhD, President and Chief Scientist of Alertness Solutions in California and former Director of the Fatigue and Countermeasures Group at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), conducted an experiment in which he instructed NASA pilots to take short naps when possible during long haul flight operations. Dr. Rosekind found that compared to long haul pilots who did not nap, the napping pilots had a 34 percent boost in performance and a 54 percent boost in alertness that lasted for two to three hours.
It is important to find a balance for napping time. 10 minutes tends to produce the best results as a quick way to perk up. 30 minutes or longer of napping can create sleep inertia, which is a feeling of grogginess after waking up. Sleep inertia can last anywhere between 15 minutes and four hours.
Tips for a Successful Nap
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm. It's a stimulant that can disrupt your sleep and stay in your system longer than you think; its half-life is four to six hours!
- If you don't want to nap a long time, set an alarm.
- If you don't have time for a power nap, or don't feel comfortable napping during the day, try meditation; it gives your body a rest and produces slower brain waves similar to those of sleep.