The Benefits of Napping
Increases alertness. When your eyelids are almost too heavy to keep open, you’re not doing your best work. Make time for a nap and then go back at it. A NASA study found that a 40 minute nap increases alertness by 100%. Other studies have found that a 20 minute nap is more effective than either 200 mg of caffeine or a bout of exercise. Yet another study showed that pilots who were allowed to take a 25 minute nap (while the co-pilot manned the controls!) nodded off fives times less than their nap-deprived peers. They also made less errors during take-offs and landings.
Studies have shown that if you break up your day with a nap, you will be as alert and energetic for the second part of your day as you were for the first. So if you’ve got an event planned for after work, take a nap before going out on the town.
Improves learning and working memory. Naps improve your working memory. This type of memory is involved in working on complex tasks where you have to pay attention to one thing while holding a bunch of other things in your memory. Napping also improves your memory retention; during sleep, recent memories are transferred to the neocortex, where long-term memories are solidified and stored.
Prevents burnout and reverses information overload. While we often refuse to take a nap because we feel like we have too much to do, studies have shown that putting in extra hours without rest dramatically reduces your productivity. It would be better to take a 30 minute nap and return to your work refreshed. This was demonstrated in a study in which subjects performed a visual task over the course of four days. With each successive session, the subjects’ performance on the task deteriorated. But when the subjects were allowed to take a 30 minute nap after the second session, the decline in performance was halted. And after a one hour nap, their performance actually improved in the third and fourth sessions.
Heightens your senses and creativity. According to foremost nap scientist (napologist?) Sara C. Mednick, napping can improve your sensory perception as effectively as a night of sleep. This means that steak tastes better, the sunset looks purtier, and Annie’s Song sounds even better after a good nap. Napping also improves your creativity by both loosening up the web of ideas in your head and fusing disparate insights together.
Improves health. Sleep deprivation leads to an excess of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, helps us deal with fight or flight responses. But excess cortisol increases glucose intolerance and abdominal fat, weakens the muscular and immune systems, stymies memory and learning, and decreases levels of growth hormone and testosterone in our bodies. These deleterious effects can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
When you sleep, you release growth hormone, the antidote to cortisol which which boosts your immune system, primes your sexual function, reduces stress and anxiety, and aids in muscle repair and weight loss. Napping gives your brain a chance to rest and your body a chance to heal.
The proof’s in the pudding. A study done with Greeks found that those that took a 30 minute nap at least three times a week had 37% less risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Among working men their risk of death was reduced 64%! So not only should you dance like Zorba the Greek, you should nap like him, too.
Improves mood. The neurotransmitter serotonin regulates our mood, sleep, and appetites. It produces feeling of contentment and well-being. But when our bodies are stressed, higher levels of serotonin are used and the production of more is blocked. As a result, we can become anxious, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed, and easily distracted. According to Mednick, “napping bathes your brain in serotonin, reversing those effects and creating a more positive outlook.”
Saves money. Instead spending $30 a week on Five Hour Energy or Starbucks, take a nap and boost your energy the natural and more effective way.
It’s awesome. Seriously, napping. It’s awesome.
Understanding the Stages of Sleep
All napping is good, but you can also tailor your nap to your specific needs. But before we delve into that, we need to talk about what each stage of sleep does for your mind and body.
There are five different stages of sleep, 1,2,3,4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). You cycle through them repeatedly as you sleep or nap: 1,2,3,4, 2, REM, 2,3,4,2, REM and so on. Each cycle lasts 90-100 minutes.
Stage 1: Lasting 2-5 minutes, this stage transitions you into sleep. Your thoughts and mental associations loosen up. This state of sort of wakeful dreaming has been used by artists and thinkers to cultivate rich ideas. We’ll cover this in-depth in a future post.
Stage 2: Motor skills and complex tasks you’ve been working on are solidified. Your energy and stamina are strengthened and senses sharpened. You spend about 50% of your sleep time in Stage 2.
Stages 3 and 4: In these stages you slide into Slow Wave Sleep. Your body stops releasing cortisol altogether and extra growth hormone goes to work restoring your body, repairing tissues, lowering stress, metabolizing fats and moving carbs out of your body. And your mind is cleared; memories that aren’t being used are pruned away, strengthening what remains and making room for new information. Information that you’ve recently and consciously learned such as the dates for a history test are solidified. You spend about 30% of your sleep time in Stages 3 and 4.
REM: During REM your brain shuttles your recently-made memories from their short term holding tank in the hippocampus to long term storage. The information is thus made permanent; if you don’t sleep soon after a learning session, you’ll lose much of what you studied. Creativity is given a boost as spatial orientation and perceptual skills are sharpened and the different insights and complex ideas you have swirling around in your nogggin are fused together. You spend about 20% of your sleep time in REM.
Text from: www.artofmanliness.com
Image from: www.totalbeauty.com