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Nap Time

Posted Aug 06 2009 10:34pm

category_bug_journal2.gif One-third of Americans took a nap in the past 24 hours. According to a PewResearchCenter survey released two weeks ago, men nap more than women (38% and 31% respectively) and people age 80 and older are the biggest nappers – 52 percent.

I envy people who can nap. A friend, for the 30-odd years I have known her, has napped for half an hour or so when she gets home from work in the evening leaving her refreshed and alert for a longer evening of activity than I can sustain.

Napping is good for us, researchers say, and napping is built in to some cultures, such as Spain. When I worked there for a few weeks in the late 1980s, American that I am, I found it annoying that government offices, restaurants and most businesses shut their doors for three hours every afternoon.

”While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep,” reports the National Sleep Foundation, “a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance. Nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap.”

My naps, on the rare occasion I indulge in them, last at least two hours during which I am as dead to the world as if I were in a coma – a much deeper sleep than I usually achieve at night.

I don't hear the telephone if it rings nor an alarm when I've tried setting it. I awaken feeling sluggish and heavy, which doesn't happen after nighttime sleep, and I'm mildly disoriented for awhile. So unless the urge to nap is irresistible, I don't even try when I sometimes feel the need for a rest in the afternoon.

Short naps are the optimum according to the National Sleep Foundation:

”A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep.”

No kidding, as I can attest. I'm puzzled by the idea of 10-minute naps. The idea seems to imply that one can fall asleep in an instant which has never been true for me, although a co-worker years ago could drop off at will. After working together for awhile on an airplane, she'd say, “I'm going to nap for 30 minutes.” As far as I could tell, she was immediately asleep and in about half an hour, she would rouse herself and be ready to work again.

Not surprisingly, the Pew survey finds that unemployed and retired people nap more on weekdays than those who are employed. Here is a chart of other findings:


In an editorial yesterday, The New York Times identified a couple of flaws in the Pew survey leading them to believe it was written by someone who does not nap and to support the idea of workplace napping:

“But let’s try to think of it this way. Plenty of us bring work home. Why not bring a little sleep to the office? It worked in kindergarten. It would work even better now.

What about you? Are you a napper? If you are retired, do you nap more than when you worked? Where do you stand on napping?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nikki Stern: Night Light

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