Going all day and pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion is sometimes a necessity, but there are other times when catching some midday shut-eye is actually in your best interest. We’re talking about napping, of course!
While sneaking a little sleep might be traditionally frowned upon in the adult world, it turns out that napping regularly is actually one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind. And yet it’s still wasted on preschoolers and denied to the rest of us!
It seems like common sense when you think about it. You get drowsy in the middle of the day, and stretching out on a couch for just a few minutes sounds fantastic. And studies have shown that it actually is!
Just like how enjoying a good laugh both feels great and has serious physical and mental benefits, napping is also one of those things that we love doing for a reason. Amazing how our body gives us those hints, right?
Read on to see how napping can benefit your body, mind, and mood, and you might just get the urge to lean back and take a little nap yourself!
Benefits Of Napping
Benefit #1: Sharpens Cognitive Functions
We all know that if you don’t get enough sleep at night, you’re definitely not on your game the next day. And just as sleep affects learning and information retaining abilities, so do naps.
Taking a 60 to 90-minute nap has been shown to boost mental performance for up to 24 hours afterwards.
Benefit #2: Improves Heart Health
A study at Harvard showed that people who nap regularly are less likely to have heart health issues later in life. Napping makes up for a lack of sleep that can wreak havoc on heart health that, unfortunately, a lot of us experience. So what’s a regular nap? At least three times a week, for at least 30 minutes.
Benefit #3: Reduces Stress And Anxiety
Being tired causes stress, which makes you even more tired. But napping can reverse that, soothing you right at the peak time of stress. A study in 2012 showed that three stress hormones spiked when their participants didn’t nap, causing more health-damaging stress. This is especially important for men to note, since they’re more likely to have stress-related health issues than women.
Benefit #4: Fights Food Cravings
When you’re tired and craving energy, it makes sense that you’d want something to eat. But that’s also a great way to eat a lot more junk food than you mean to, which can lead to its own set of problems. Napping is an alternative to snacking in that it boosts energy and stops you from thinking about food — because you’re asleep! Just a 10 to 15 minute nap can get rid of a craving.
Benefit #5: Improves Physical Performance
Napping seems like the opposite of working out, but in fact, studies show that athletes who take short naps perform better on the field, improving their motor reaction skills and speed.
Tips For A Better Nap
Tip #1: Set A Timer
Depending on your needs, a nap can range from five to 45 minutes, but it seems most people don’t like a 30-minute nap. Experiment with different times until you find one that makes you feel best. A timer will also help you get up on time to finish your day.
Tip #2: Nap In The Afternoon
The early afternoon seems to be the best time to nap. It’s about the midway point in the day, and it’s usually after you’ve had something to eat. Napping too late in the afternoon can mess up your night’s sleep, and napping too early might not get you to last the rest of the day.
Tip #3: Choose Optimal Conditions
The best place to take a nap is in a cool, dim area. It shouldn’t be too dark or you’ll fall into a deep sleep. It’s also easier to sleep in a place that’s slightly cooler, using a blanket to keep out too much chill. It’s also a good idea to keep your head elevated, like on the arm of a couch.
Tip #4: Have Nap Accessories
Yes, naps need accessories, too. You’ll need your cell phone or a timer to set your alarm, a cup of coffee or tea to drink before the nap, and a sleep mask if you’re napping in a bright area. You can also grab a pencil. Set your timer and drink your coffee or tea. The caffeine will kick in after you wake up and you’ll be ready to go. Some people also nap with a pencil between their fingers. Your fingers will slowly relax, and you’ll wake when the pencil hits the floor.
Tip #5: Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is not a luxury. It’s just as necessary to your health as food and water, but most people still don’t get enough of it. Consider this statistic: 48 percent of Americans say they feel sleep deprived — but only 34 percent nap regularly. So maybe we need to rethink how we sleep. Let’s bring back nap time!
So there you have it! There’s nothing wrong with napping, and it certainly doesn’t make you lazy. If you’ve been feeling stressed or anxious, make some time during the day to take a quick nap, even just 10 minutes. You might notice yourself feeling more energized and relaxed — and maybe a lot happier.