If you’re halfway through a busy day and need to recharge, try a catnap over the caffeine. Experts agree that taking a refreshing nap can do everything from boosting your memory, to enhancing your creativity, and even help you deal with stress.
According to sleep expert and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life Sara C. Mednick, PhD, that by napping for just 15-20 minutes, “you reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That's what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost.” If you’re not catching all the Zs you need at night, daytime naps can help to make up for sleep deprivation.
A 20-minute power nap boosts alertness and motor skills for activities like playing a musical instrument. Slightly longer naps help boost memory and enhance creativity. The type of slow wave sleep you get from longer naps of up to an hour, is great for improving skills like learning a language or remembering directions. REM sleep naps (lasting 60 to 90 minutes) can help your brain make new connections and solve creative problems.
While longer naps offer several health benefits, it can be challenging to take that time out of our busy lives. Short, sweet ‘power naps’ of 20-30 minutes still provide lots of physical, mental and emotional advantages, while being easier to incorporate into an average day.
The five best napping benefits
A NASA study showed that pilots who napped for around 25 minutes improved alertness by 54% and increased job performance by 34%, compared to pilots who didn’t nap.
Napping can enhance athletic performance. Studies of runners who took short afternoon naps improved their endurance over a control group that didn’t nap.
Proponents of napping claim the habit helps them deal with stress, and research also indicates naps can slightly reduce blood pressure.
It’s thought that naps boost creativity by increasing right brain activity (the area associated with creative thinking).
Naps have also been shown to boost the production of leukocytes – white blood cells vital to helping the body’s immune system to fight infection.
There are several ways that naps, when coupled with a good night’s sleep, are great for your body and mind. But their benefits really show up when you make napping a habit. In fact, research has found that napping regularly may reduce stress and even decrease your risk of heart disease
To get the most out of a nap, follow these tips:
Quick is smart
Set an alarm so you can fall asleep without worrying that you won’t wake up in time.
Consistency is key
Keep a regular nap schedule if you can, with the aim to nap each day between 1pm and 3pm.
Dark is best
Blocking out light will help you get the most from your naps by falling asleep faster. If you can’t get to a dark room, try wearing an eye mask.
Warm is cosy
While sleeping, your body temperature will drop slightly, so cover yourself with a lightweight blanket.
Comfort is vital
If you’re at work or otherwise away from your own bed, take your comfort zone with you. A portable memory foam pillow that balances softness and support can help you get comfy so it’s easier to fall asleep quickly.
So, to fight fatigue and stay on top of your to do list, make healthy, refreshing naps a regular part of your daytime routine.