The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Feel Free, It’s Nap Time!
Napping has gotten a bad rap in our fast-paced society, with revelers being labeled as lazy or unmotivated. However, according to science, our snobbish attitude towards naps is misguided. In fact, embracing nap time may be just what you need to improve your performance at work and overall well-being.
Even brief naps have been shown to result in marked improvements in a variety of measures, with longer naps tagging on additional benefits. From simply relieving sleepiness and increasing alertness, to enhancing your perceptual abilities and memory — There’s no denying that learning how to nap effectively can give you an edge over the competition.
But napping isn’t just beneficial in the short-term: Studies examining cultures with longstanding napping traditions give clear examples as to how this practice can improve your health and reduce your risk for chronic disease. These effects are primarily due to the fact that napping is an excellent way to combat sleep deprivation.
Meanwhile in the US, where napping has been cast to the wayside, there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation. This isn’t an exaggeration, insufficient sleep is so prevalent among American adults that the Center For Disease Control has named it a public health crisis.
All this to say, we recommend penciling a nap into your daily schedule. After all, you’d be in good company: Many of history’s notable visionaries have been devoted proponents of the nap, including the likes of Brahms, Churchill and even Einstein.
Check out this infographic from Patio Productions for more great reasons why you should never feel guilty for taking a nap.
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- The Nano-Nap: 10-20 seconds
- Sleep studies haven’t yet concluded whether there are benefits to these brief intervals, like when you nod off on someone’s shoulder on the train.
- The Micro-Nap: 2-5 minutes
- Shown to be surprisingly effective at shedding sleepiness
- The Mini-Nap: 5-20 minutes
- Increases alertness, stamina, motor learning, and motor performance
- The Original Power Nap: 20 minutes
- Includes the benefits of the micro and the mini, but additionally improves muscle memory and clears the brain of useless built-up information, which helps with long-term memory (remember facts, events, and names)
- The Lazy Man’s Nap: 50 to 90 minutes
- Includes slow-wave plus REM sleep; good for improving perceptual processing; also when the system is flooded with human growth hormone, great for repairing bones and muscles
- A nap of 60 minutes improves alertness for up to 10 hours
- Research on pilots shows that a 26-minute “Nasa” nap in flight (while the plane is manned by a copilot) enhanced performance by 34% and overall alertness by 54%
- National Napping Day is on March 14
- This unofficial holiday was first observed in 1999
- Most mammals sleep for short periods throughout the day. Humans have consolidated sleep into one long period, but our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness: in the early morning, from about 2am to 4am, and in the afternoon, between 1pm and 3 pm
- NBA, NHL, and even NFL players are known to be nappers
- October 2010, Spain’s first national siesta championship takes place in Madrid. The top napper won 1,000 euros
- A recent study found that napping on a slowly swinging bed really does get up to sleep faster.
- Siesta cultures have a lower rate of coronary heart disease (CHD). A 2007 study of about 24,000 Greek people showed that those who napped twice a week reduced their CHD by 12%. What was really amazing was that if they napped three times a week, their CHD reduced by a whopping 37%
- decreased daytime sleepiness 10%
- elevated mood 11%
- improved quality of interactions 10%
- elevated alertness 11%
- increased stamina 11%
- enhanced mental abilities 9%
- increased physical health 6%
- increased ability to stay asleep through the night 12%
- increased refreshed feeling upon waking 5%
- increased nighttime sleep by about 20 minutes
BUSINESSES THAT PROMOTE NAPPPING
Nike workers now have access to nap-friendly “quite rooms” that can also be used for meditation.
Google has a number of futuristic napping pods scattered throughout its Mountain View campus. (Its “Energy Pods” — futuristic-looking white capsules that rent for $795 a month or sell for $12,985 where nappers can recline out of other people’s sight and set timers to wake themselves up with vibrations and lights.)
Continental and British Airways allow pilots to sleep during long international flights while colleagues take over the controls.
6% of workplaces had nap rooms in 2011, a slight increase from 5% of the previous year.
x1000 = 1,508 adults were polled by the National Sleep Foundation. They found that 34% of respondents say their meployers allow them to nap at work, and 16% said their employers also have designated napping areas.
NAPPING IN OTHER COUNTRIES
The siesta rest has origins in Islamic Law and is written about in the Koran. However the word siesta is Spanish, originating from the Latin “Hora Sexto” meaning “the sixth hour” (six hours from dawn is noon). Siesta means “midday rest”. Although Spain is often considered as having invented the ‘siesta’ it’s origins go back much further in history within Islam.
Romans had a regular siesta; it was considered to be a physical necessity rather than a luxury.
An example of a siesta-like habit can be found in Serbia and Slovenia. Especially among older citizens, it is common to observe the so-called “house rule”, requiring people to refrain from telephoning or visiting each other between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., as people are supposed to be resting; especially since lunch in Serbia and Slovenia, eaten usually between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., is the main dish of the day.
In Bengal, the word which describes the concept is bhat-ghum, literally meaning “rice-sleep”, a nap after lunch.
In some southern German-speaking regions, the Mittagspause or Mittagsruhe is still customary; shops close, and children are expected to play quietly indoors.
In north India a colloquial term sustana, which literally means “taking a small nap” (possibly of Persian origin), is used, although it does not necessarily mean siesta but is used the same way.
Afternoon sleep is also a common habit in China and Taiwan after the midday meal. This is called wujiao in Chinese. Almost all schools in Mainland China and Taiwan have a half-hour nap period right after lunch. This is a time when all lights are out and one is not allowed to do anything other than rest or sleep.
Some Japanese offices have special rooms known as napping rooms for their workers to take a nap during lunch break or after overtime work.
In the United States, the United Kingdom, and a growing number of other countries, a short sleep has been referred to as a “power nap.”
FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO NAPPED
- Bill Clinton napped while President of the United States to help cope with the pressures of office.
- Brahms napped at the piano while he composed his famous lullaby.
- Napolean napped between battles while sitting on a horse.
- Churchill maintained that he had to nap in order to cope with his wartime responsibilities.
- Margaret Thatcher napped in order to be at her best.
- Geniuses such as Edison and da Vinci napped.
- Einstein napped frequently during the day to help him think more clearly. He would sit in his favourite armchair with a pencil in his hand and purposely doze off. He would wake when the pencil dropped, ensuring he did not enter a deep sleep from which it would be difficult to wake.