Though most Americans find themselves far too busy to nap during the day, there is actually quite a bit of evidence that suggests that our siesta loving neighbors are more in tune to the needs of our bodies than we are. There has been quite a bit of research that suggests that we are actually meant to nap during the day. Here are seven reasons why you ought to give the old siesta a try.
1. Our bodies seem to be programmed to sleep after lunch. It is believed that our bodies have evolved to trying to drive us out of the midday sun, particularly in countries near the equator. We all tend to get a bit sleepy sometime mid afternoon, because of a slight drop in body temperature. Statistics show that more on the job accidents happen in the mid afternoon, and are often related to sleepiness. In addition, overall performance among employees in all industries has been shown to be at the lowest point of the day about an hour or so after lunch. This afternoon dip in energy happens even if you don’t eat lunch.
2. You’ll feel more alert and able to focus. Research has shown that even a 10 minute nap can increase your performance, alertness and concentration. A short nap is especially beneficial if you’ve had poor sleep the night before.
3. You may sleep better at night. Some people report better sleep at night if they take a short nap during the day simply because they are not as exhausted when bedtime comes. Being “over tired” is a common reason for insomnia, which a short nap may alleviate. Beware, however, of long naps, which can make it more difficult to sleep at night. Ten to thirty minutes or so is best. Sleeping more than 30 minutes may put your body into a heavier mode of sleep, causing you to feel groggy when you wake up.
4. You may be able to reduce the number of hours you sleep at night. By taking a daytime nap, you may be able to reduce the number of hours you need at night – sometimes by as much as 2 hours.
5. Napping may improve your ability to learn. The National Sleep Foundation has reported research from Harvard that shows that sleep is key to learning, and that napping in addition to nighttime sleep can improve your ability to retain what you’re taught.
6. It improves driving safety – Sleep experts report that taking a short nap before you begin a long drive can reduce your chances of a “drowsy driving” accident. They also recommend that you pull over and take a 20 minute nap if you feel drowsy. Following that nap with a caffeinated drink before you hit the road again is best.
7. It can reduce stress – Since stress is often tied to being tired and overwhelmed, a short nap during the day can be a great stress reliever. You’ll wake feeling more refreshed and better able to cope with the stresses of the day.
At the end of the day, the goal is to get the optimal amount of sleep for your body. Sufficient sleep improves performance, health, learning and simply makes us feel better. And, the good news is, that using naps to get that is just as good as sleeping through the night.
Mary Ward blogs about various health care job issues, including how to study to obtain a