Napping is often seen as a habit usually enjoyed by the lazy and unmotivated. But don’t let this misguided opinion fool you, it can be a godsend in today’s busy world. Napping is actually a well-kept secret to success, and including it as part of your regular regime can do you a world of wonders.
Ideally, it would be great to be able to get through the day without feeling tired or run down, but it doesn’t often work out that way. This is where the nap comes in. Traditionally, naps tend to be something we feel guilty about, but we really shouldn’t – it is a powerful tool in the right hands, and in some cases can make all of the difference between success and failure. Did you know that powerful figures throughout our history have favoured the nap as part of their daily regime to keep themselves on top form; this includes such figures as Winston Churchill, JFK and Thomas Edison.
So why did these powerful figures display habits that would be frowned upon, and even looked upon as a stigma today? Well, to put it simply, it is human nature. Humans are among the few animals upon earth to get all of their sleep in one big go. Most creatures, including the majority of mammals have multiple periods of sleep across a 24 hour cycle. We are also meant to be like this, but the constraints of modern day society have changed the way we live, going against our very nature.
It is why napping can seem like such a guilty relief - our society expect us to get all our sleep at once, yet having a nap makes us feel so refreshed and energised. It is hardwired into our biology, and fighting it can leave the brain fatigued and the body in need of a quick caffeine pick-me-up.
Go back as little as 100 years and it was common place, certainly in places Victorian England, to actually sleep for four hours, wake up for a while and then go back to bed for another four hours. Within this time between sleeping, people would often read, do chores, speak with their significant others, and even have the occasional bit of cheeky sex. It was a sleep pattern that fits in with human nature much more naturally, and scientists are once again beginning to appraise its value.
It Improves Memory and Learning
Napping has been shown to help the brain deal with both juggling complex tasks whilst processing memories, as well as aiding memory retention. When you nap, memories are transferred to the parts of the brain where long-term memory is stored. This helps us hold onto the knowledge we learn, as well as keeping our productivity up.
Having a Nap Will Increase Alertness
There is a whole wealth of research showing how a quick nap can have dramatic effects on your alertness. Research by NASA showed that a 40 minute nap improves your alertness by 100%. Others have shown that when pilots are allowed 25 minute naps as their co-pilot flies, they are 5 times less likely to fall asleep on duty, as well as make less errors during take-off and landing. Research has even shown that a 20 minute nap can be more effective at making you more alert than 200mg of caffeine.
As you can imagine, this has a whole array of practical applications - especially in the workplace, where productivity is usually key.
It Prevents Sleep Deprivation
Napping can be a handy way to make sure you are giving your body enough downtime. Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make the day harder, it has serious and negative consequences on your health. It can weaken the immune system, weaken muscular systems, increase abdominal fat, and decrease levels of essential hormones within our bodies.
When you are getting enough sleep, (which napping can help you do), you ensure that none of the above comes to pass, as well as improve sexual function, actually improve muscle systems and weight loss, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Research found that those who take a 30 minute nap at least 3 times a week were 37% less likely to die of a heart attack, with working men seeing a reduction of 64%!
It Improves Your Mood
When we are getting run down and tired, the brain requires more serotonin to function, whilst simultaneously slowing down its production. This is bad because serotonin is the neurotransmitter the brain uses to send the message that all is well, and contributes to feelings of happiness and contentedness. When we are low on serotonin we start to feel down, anxious and even depressed. Having a nap helps prevent fatigue, as well as momentarily boosting serotonin production, helping prevent the feeling that the world is weighing too heavy on your shoulders.
It Will Save You Money
Want to stop spending so much money of coffee and energy drinks? Take a nap instead – it’s free.
Although napping certainly has its benefits, it can actually be quite hard to fit them into your daily routine. It’s not exactly professional to take a quick 20 minute nap at your desk, nor can you really get away with falling asleep in class. It all comes down to prioritising, maybe you have an hour lunch break at work? In which case, you can probably eat your lunch in half the time, then pop out to your car for a quick nap for the remainder. If you are a busy mum, then maybe have a nap whilst the kids are at after school activities, or if you are a student, take a quick 20 minute nap after dinner.
Napping is not something to feel guilty about, nor does it indicate that something is wrong with you. Getting as little as 20 minutes here and there can make a huge difference to both your day, and your health – so curl up and get a bit of shut eye whenever you get the chance!