Kindergartners do it. Italians do it. Even cute little puppy dogs do it. What is “it?”
Napping, of course.
On the heels of Daylight Saving Time, National Napping Day fell on Monday to call upon the sleepy masses to incorporate a short, invigorating nap into the daily grind. Of course, many people are too busy to bother napping in the middle of the day, but the health benefits are so encouraging, you may want to try.
According to Medical Daily,napping can counteract a poor night’s sleep, stave off Alzheimer’s, lower stress levels and blood pressure. Plus, it’s a free, luxurious mini-vacation, a moment of escape and repose in the middle of never-ending to do lists.
- In a 2015 study, 11 healthy men were deprived of sleep during one night, but were allowed to nap the next day. Urine and saliva samples showed that a poor night’s sleep raised stress hormones, but napping brought them down to normal, showing that catching winks during the day can give the immune and neuroendocrine systems a boost.
- Resting on your side is the best way to nap, because it helps the brain get rid of waste products. Also in 2015, a study revealed that rats who slept on their sides (only possible because they were anesthetized) had clearer brains than those who slept on their bellies or backs. Clearing away brain toxins in this way could help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- People who take midday naps also have a 4 percent lower average systolic blood pressure than those who don’t.
- And according to the National Sleep Foundation, napping can also “restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents,” extend alertness later it the day, and is an easy way to relax.
Interestingly, humans are one of the only animals who don’t sleep in short spurts. Most mammals are polyphasic sleepers, which means they snooze for short periods during the day. We’re one of only a few monophasic sleepers in the animal kingdom. We sleep during one block of time, and are awake for another.
Moreover, humans are actually designed for napping. Before we started working eight-hour shifts, we naturally decided to take naps in the afternoon. Over in Italy and Spain, adults still take breaks for napping.
If you’re convinced this National Napping Day that catching Zzzzs after lunch is worth looking into, here are some tips to do it right. Because, yes, you can actually nap the wrong way.
- Take a brief “power nap” lasting only 10 to 30 minutes. This avoids grogginess afterward, because you won’t be able to fall into a deep sleep. Ten minutes is actually the optimum, according to the latest research.
- The Mayo Clinic advises that you nap in the afternoon, ideally between 2 or 3 p.m. Alertness tends to naturally wane at this time of day. It’s also the sweet spot: you’ll be tired enough to snooze, but far enough away from bed time that it won’t interfere with night sleep.
- Make sure you pick a comfy spot in a room with a comfy temperature, little noise, and dim light.
- When you wake, do what you’d normally do. Start with the tasks that require you to be on your toes, because thanks to napping, you will be.
And nap carefully. If you aren’t a natural mid-afternoon snoozer, napping may not be for you. You also run the risk of falling victim to sleep inertia, or post-nap grogginess, if you snore too long. And if you are at risk for heart failure, napping may increase that risk.
Happy National Napping Day! Now go take a nap.
[Photo by Easy Morning/Shutterstock]