Taking a nap

Taking a nap

Find out why a good nap can be beneficial to your health and well being.

Photo Credit: Paulus Rusyanto
By Mildred Scala

Napping- it’s not just for children anymore.

For a long time in North America, afternoon naps have been associated with young children, people recuperating from illnesses, or pure laziness. In our busy society, the last thing on the lengthy to-do list of most adults is to stop and catch 40 winks. Recently, however, the benefits of napping has been reconsidered by sleep experts, and even employers.

Sleep deprivation in our society has become a serious epidemic. It is estimated that less than half of all adults and teens are getting a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, many getting 6 hours or less. Because people shoulder so many responsibilities, they are often willing to forgo a couple of extra hours each night in order to get things done. However, in order to function well, our bodies require proper rest just as they require a good diet and physical activity. Not only is sleep deprivation unhealthy, but it can be dangerous. People who are sleep deprived are more prone to accidents and making mistakes.

Scientists are finding that just a little nap in the afternoons is beneficial to a person’s health and well being. Sleep studies have shown that people who nap even a half hour each day generally have lower blood pressure, have a decreased risk for heart disease, and are more productive and less stressed in their waking hours.

Napping at work is something that has long been frowned upon by employers, and in the past could get a person fired. However, many companies are paying attention to the studies showing the benefits of napping. Corporations across America are encouraging employees to nap on their breaks, providing a quiet room with comfortable seating. Employers are finding that giving workers the opportunity to take a cat nap in their day increases productivity, decreases absenteeism, and makes for fewer accidents and mistakes on the job.

Napping is nothing new to some cultures, the most well known of which is Spain, where the siesta lives on. In most Spanish cities, businesses still shut down from 1:30 in the afternoon, during the hottest part of the day, and people go home to nap. At 5 p.m. people emerge and businesses open, and people work and play into the night.

If you find that sleep deprivation is making it difficult for you to cope with your responsibilities, you might want to consider incorporating a nap into your day. If you plan on napping, keep these things in mind:

1) Plan your nap for the middle of your day. If you nap within a couple of hours after rising from your regular sleep, your nap will be too light to benefit from it. If you plan it too close to your bed time, it could disrupt your sleep at night and leave you tossing and turning. Try to plan your nap for the middle of your regular day to reap the most rewards.

2) Keep it short and sweet. Try to plan for 30 to 60 minutes; any longer, and it may leave you feeling sluggish for the rest of the day and interfere with your sleep at night. If you have trouble waking on your own, ask someone to wake you or set an alarm clock. Try to go somewhere that you can be comfortable, preferably lying down, where there will be no interruptions- shut off the phone and ask not to be disturbed. While a good rest will be beneficial, a broken, disturbed, uncomfortable rest will only serve to leave you cranky and irritable.

3) Don’t use naps to replace regular sleep. If you’re so busy that you’re burning the midnight oil and rising at the crack of dawn, a brief nap in the day will not make up for that sleep debt you’re building up. Instead of sacrificing sleep to get things done, try to get your proper rest at night and take a short nap in the day, and you’ll probably find yourself much more alert and productive, enabling you to complete your tasks in your waking hours with more ease.

Happy napping!

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