The Importance of Naps and Your Health
Written by: Tyler Linn
Can you remember back to when you were a child and you had specific nap times? How great would it be to go back there now – with the realization that a nap is actually a GOOD thing! No fussing because you want to play more, instead a pure sense of bliss and relaxation. Just 5 more minutes… please!
As we grow older, life gets busier and more complicated. And over time, many of you put your sleep on the back-burner, which ultimately plays a big role in the deterioration of your health!
According to the National Health Service, regularly receiving poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy, too. Those are some serious effects. Now, I know life is busy for us all, but one little trick you can use to counteract sleep deprivation is napping (yes, I said napping!).
In a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), researchers found that a short nap can reverse the negative health effects of a night of poor sleep and also reduce stress and bolster the immune system.
Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce 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 by 100%.
Other studies show that simply napping for just 20 minutes has a profound positive effect as well!
Napping has psychological benefits too, as a nap can be a pleasant luxury, a nice mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation. On top of this, napping benefits also include:
- Sharpening your thinking so you can make more accurate judgments and better decisions.
- Regenerating skin cells so you look younger.
- Increasing your libido.
- Helping you lose weight by altering metabolism and shifting chemicals that affect appetite.
- Reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
- Lifting your mood by bathing your brain in the neurotransmitter serotonin.
- Speeding up your ability to perform motor tasks, like typing, operating machinery and even swimming.
- Improving the way your body processes carbs, which reduces your risk of diabetes.
- Sharpening your senses so you take in what’s important in your environment—and screen out the 24-hour culture chatter that surrounds you.
- Putting your brain into its creative gear so you can come up with fresh ideas.
- Triggering a naturally occurring hormone that blocks the destructive chemicals produced by stress.
- Boosting your ability to learn something new—and, better yet, remember it.
- Zapping the need for drugs like caffeine and alcohol that manipulate your mood and energy level.
- Relieving migraines.
- Improving your nighttime sleep by eliminating that wired feeling and thus shutting off the brain chatter.
Scheduled napping has even been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy!
While research has shown that napping is a beneficial way to relieve exhaustion, it still has stigmas associated with it, such as laziness, lack of ambition, low standards, childishness, sickness and aging. But do not let these negative connotations throw you off. These statements are false and many segments of the public need to be educated on the benefits of napping… because there are a ton!
So, now that you have some facts under your belt, you may be wondering how long to nap? A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths vs. no naps.
The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefits in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep.
Hopefully now you’re thinking about ways to incorporate naps into your daily routine. Keep in mind that getting enough sleep on a regular basis is the best way to stay alert and feel your best. But when fatigue sets in, a quick nap can do wonders for your mental and physical stamina.
Originally from Sacramento, CA, Tyler Linn moved down to San Diego in 2006 to attend college at San Diego State University. Tyler enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, surfing, hiking, meeting new people and traveling all over the world.
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