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Need for Naps?

Posted Feb 11 2013 4:08pm
Picture Dont you just love how the little guys can fall asleep anywhere?

I'm not sure about you and where you live, but where I am it seems to rain most days out of the week.  It has been a long steady pour all day today and looks like we are in for more of the same for the next few days.  

Those rainy days and Mondays always get me down . . . and make me SO sleepy!  I have felt like I could have taken at least three naps today!  I think I actually might have had a 10 minute one yesterday during the afternoon rain.  I am not normally a napper.  I have a hard enough time getting a normal night's sleep that I always think a nap will just make it worse.  I actually might be wrong on this one.  I was looking into it today and it seems like there's new research out there that naps can be beneficial. 

New research is showing that the daytime snooze may have health benefits without interfering with nighttime sleep.  It’s common to have a little “hump” of midafternoon sleepiness, something that a nap can smooth out nicely. And while some people worry about napping more as they get older, new research suggests adding daytime sleep to your schedule as a way to make up for the normal, age-related decay in the quality of nighttime sleep.  The recent research shows that sleep improves learning, memory, and creative thinking. In many cases, the best sleep has been a nap. These findings argue for employer policies that might tolerate, even encourage, napping.  And I always feel so GUILTY if I take a nap!  

What makes us so sleepy sometimes in the afternoon?
Yesterday I was driving my boys back from a day away with family and they were all napping in the car.  I was the lone one awake and pinching myself to stay that way!  What happens to make us drowsy is a sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine, which builds up in your body throughout the day. If you skip shut-eye at night, a high level of adenosine can leave you feeling desperate for a nap. (That makes sense because I had a terrible night's sleep the night before!) 

Your brain pumps out GABA, a neurotransmitter that lets your head's sleep-wake center know it's sleepy time. GABA also helps deactivate much of the brain stem, which controls muscle movement. That's why when you dream about, say, playing tennis, you don't swing your arm. However, if you're super-exhausted, your brain might shut down before your body is fully relaxed, leading to involuntary muscle contractions (those arm or leg jerks). 

Most naps are relatively short and will leave you nice and refreshed.  Most naps don't go into deeper stages of sleep, but if you're seriously drained, and sleep longer than say 30  minutes, you might enter rapid eye movement (REM). Snapping out of REM is harder and can leave you groggy. If you arise from a 30-minute nap and still feel wiped out, you need more sleep! Catnaps can't fix real sleep deprivation. 

When it is a good time to nap, here are a few things to keep in mindKeep it short. A 20- to 30-minute nap may be ideal. Even just napping for a few minutes has benefits. Longer naps can lead to grogginess.

Find a dark, quiet, cool place. Reducing light and noise helps most people get to sleep faster. Cool temperatures are helpful, too.

Plan on it. Waiting till sleepiness gets so bad that you have to take a nap can be dangerous if you’re driving. A regular nap time may also help you get to sleep faster and wake up quicker.

Don’t feel guilty! A nap can make you more productive at work and at home.  As I said before, I always feel so guilty if I can take a nap!  Sometimes I actually TRY to take a nap and then it hardly ever happens.  That is precisely when the dogs begin barking, the  phone rings, some boy or the Husband wants something or someone decides to slam a door . . . I'm sure you get the picture.  

So, I'm thinking when you get that awful drowsy feeling and you know you aren't going to get anything done, it might be more refreshing to simply close your eyes for 10 minutes instead of pumping more caffeine in your body.  That will just disrupt your sleep later in the evening and keep you on the vicious cycle.  And Don't Feel Guilty. 

Sources: Alon Avidan, M.D., associate director, UCLA Sleep Disorders Center; Nancy Collop, M.D., director, Emory Sleep Center; Nabeel Farah, M.D., founder, Sleep Medicine Consultants of North Texas;

Picture HA! I say I don't take naps but looks like I was caught in the act!
Are you a napper?  Do you feel better after a little catnap?  Do you feel guilty, too?  Must have been a bad dream I'm thinking  . . . don't look to happy.
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