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Sneaking in one siesta a day can rejuvenate you and replenish your brain power. Modern culture tells us that naps are for children and the retired people. The adult working population does not nap! Or do they? If you were living in Japan right now, you would possibly find it pretty mundane to get some shuteye at around 2pm every day.
Even households in Spain stick to their siesta hours between two and four every afternoon. However, in the US, it is very unusual for adults to nap in the afternoons. A midday snooze can become your day’s guilty pleasure or the reason for a notice from your boss. Nonetheless, it feels good to doze for a couple of minutes in the middle of the day when work is slow, and the belly is full.
An Interesting History of Napping
Sleep specialists recommend naps for everyone. Individuals of all ages and professions can benefit equally from developing a healthy napping habit. A nap can be a short snooze between a couple of minutes to an hour long.
Dali may have perfected his nap regimen where he fell asleep with a key in one hand and an upturned dish under it. As he dozed off, the key slipped from his grip and landed on the plate creating a thud. Those couple of minutes was enough for the father of surrealism to get a fresh start and create new masterpieces.
From Einstein to Beethoven, all master inventors and genius creators believed in the power of catnaps. Interestingly, they all had individual napping times, durations, and habits. Short duration sleep that can take, you to the REM stage has the power to recharge your creativity and restore your cognitive abilities.
What is a Nap?
A pro rata sleeping session during the daytime can be a nap. You can choose to switch off the world for 5 minutes or 1.5 hours. As long as it is shorter than four complete sleep cycles and it is during the daytime, it becomes a snooze. Midday breaks only remain beneficial till they do not interfere with your nightly slumber. You can think of your afternoon forty-winks to complement your night’s sleep.
Today, chancing upon a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow is more realistic than getting 8 hours of sleep on weekdays for most people. It is very common for people to feel groggy during afternoon work hours or the evenings. While most of us choose to shoo away our drowsiness with caffeine, sleep experts recommend welcoming it with a comfortable pillow and an alarm.
Napping vs. Polyphasic Sleep: Are They the Same?
Napping can be synonymous with polyphasic sleep. Did you know that almost 85% of the mammalian world prefers sleeping in several phases throughout the night and day? There is no reason for us to go against nature and deny ourselves the siesta we deserve! Some people are diehard polyphasic sleepers, and they get their regular doses of sleep by napping for 90 minutes at a time throughout 24 hours.
The more common form of multi-phasic rest is when people get their core sleep for about 6 hours and supplement this with 90 minutes of nap during the day. This form of sleeping habit is biphasic sleep. Spacing out your shut-eye can help you experience better REM sleep per day. This slow-wave sleeping phase is vital for the body to engage in restoration of the immune system, removing accumulated toxins and boosting brain power.
Napping can be a form of biphasic sleep, but not all patterns of segmented sleep are napping. For example, there is a concept of sleeping multiple times, where the sleeper engages in 20-minute snoozes throughout the day. The numerous phases amount to only 3 hours of sleep in 24 hours. The efficacy of this pattern of rest is doubtful, and not all people benefit from this rather harsh practice.
On the other hand, extensive research shows that segmented sleep is beneficial for almost everyone. Toddlers, adolescents, young adults, adults and the elderly benefit equally from practicing biphasic sleep.
Snoozing vs. Sleeping: Which One is Better for Your Health?
Getting enough sleep is a daily struggle for most children, adolescents, and adults. That might give a lot of social media users the chance to create super funny videos and “epic fail” gifs, but it is a problem people should begin to address with seriousness. It might not be possible for you to stay asleep for more than 5 to 6 hours per night but fitting in a break of 90 minutes for hitting the hay every afternoon can give a significant boost to your energy level. Complete sleep usually consists of 4 to 5 REM cycles.
The body and brain enter about five slow-wave sleep cycles per night for completing the restoration work. However, a power nap does not consist of more than two stages of sleep. Interestingly, it takes our brain only 20 to 30 minutes to access the first two stages. Those, who sleep for a more extended duration experience deeper sleep than those who practice shorter naps. By napping for 90 minutes, your mind can enter the final REM stage. Perfecting the length of your rest will depend on the duration of your nightly slumber.
Although there is no strict timing for naps or a stringent rule for the duration, people usually tend to get sloppier 8 hours after waking up. In case you feel tired, drowsy or confused immediately after waking up each morning, you might be suffering from a sleep disorder or the side-effect of a medication you are taking. In that case, you need to consult with your physician and a sleep expert to develop a healthy sleeping schedule. Usually, our bodies follow a 24-hour sleep schedule.
As per the rest requirements of our system, scientists and sleep specialists have narrowed down the typical catnap duration to between 15 and 30 minutes. A long duration nap that allows you to access a complete sleep cycle needs to be about 1.5 hours long. However, finding 1.5 hours per day for an adult is nothing short of impossible. It is one of the reasons most sleep experts recommend a quick power nap.
More extended hours of sleep have the power to reinstate the body’s stamina one has lost throughout the day. Deep slumbers help increase brain power, repair the body and enhance the body’s defense mechanism. Muscle repair, tissue repair, fighting infections, redressing pain, and memory consolidation are a few necessary actions that take place during deeper and longer nightly rests. During these hours, the core temperature of the body reduces, and more energy goes into remedial and repair actions.
Similarly, during a power nap, the core temperature of the human body, and the muscles relax. A power nap can relieve pain, diminish muscle tension, alleviate headaches, and lower stress levels. However, naps cannot replace a good night’s sleep. Some people have mastered the art of sleeping for only 3 hours per day by splitting their rest into 90-minute cycles, but that is a feat for superhumans!
Ideally, there should not be a comparison between core sleep and snooze. The latter is like fast charging your phone’s battery. It takes a shorter time than 4 or 5 complete cycles of sleep, but it can only recharge you fractionally. Getting 4 or 5 full sleep cycles each night is imperative for everyone. In case you do not find enough time at night, you can make up for the lost rest by getting some shuteye later on during the day.
What are the Ultimate Benefits of Napping?
There are proper ways to hit the snooze button every afternoon. Depending on your stress level, work pressure and available places to nap, you might be reaping between one to an uncountable number of benefits from biphasic sleep.
According to an internet-breaking study by NASA, dozing for 20 minutes in the right setting can be more effective than drinking 200 mg of caffeine. If you can sneak in 40-minutes of rest per day, you can increase your midday alertness by almost 100%. It will not only make you feel on top of the world, but it will also improve your productivity levels.
- Saves you money. Napping can save your hard-earned money. Instead of paying for coffee and energy drinks, you can give your body and brain a rest they deserve. We know how alluring the new flavors at Starbucks or the adjacent craft coffee store can be, but none of them can be as pocket-friendly as a short lie-down.
- Reduces stress. Small power naps can reduce your stress level significantly. It decreases the chances of depression, anxiety, fatigue and stress disorders in adults. Several studies have shown that adequate rest can protect your mind from depression.
- Improves memory. We are all aware of the memory making, storing and maintenance tasks of night-time sleep, but power naps are equally effective in boosting new memory formation and old memory maintenance. Snoozing between 60 and 90 minutes can give your brain the time it needs to restore memory functions and eradicate mental fatigue.
- Boosts creativity. Your creativity depends a lot on your ability to perceive the external stimuli or inspirations. Taking a break from the mundane work for about 30 minutes can refresh your sensory perception. It will improve your work performance, especially if your job requires you to think up something new, unique and creative every day.
- Slows down dementia. Napping on a daily basis can reduce the rate of neural degeneration. With aging, the neural networks suffer structural damage that can cause memory problems. It is one of the reasons older folks often have trouble remembering simple details. Additionally, people who do not get enough sleep have more chances of getting late-onset Alzheimer’s. Sleeping helps your brain remove the accumulating beta-amyloid proteins that create the plaques responsible for Alzheimer’s. Researchers from John Hopkins have shown that even a short nap can help your brain clean these plaques and stay healthy.
- Reduces anxiety levels. People who get enough sleep on a regular basis have minimal anxiety levels. Snoozing for a couple of minutes can help you unwind. It reduces activity in the areas of the brain that are responsible for creating anxiousness. People, who do not get enough rest every day, often develop anxiety disorders later in life. Taking short pauses from work to snooze a little can significantly lower the levels of anxiety.
- Keeps you mentally healthy. Lack of good night’s rest can create problems that are beyond the reach of a general physician. Being tired day after day from sleep deprivation have higher chances of developing stress disorders, anxiety disorders, depression and compromised logic. A recent study by the University of California showed that people who don’t get enough rest are less likely to correlate correct facts with figures. They are prone to seeing imaginary details in images. The lack of enough sleep can jumble understanding and cognition significantly.
- Improves understanding. Understanding is fundamental in almost all relationships. For maintaining a friendship, it is crucial for two individuals to understand and respect each other’s perspectives. A good night’s sleep can prevent you from falling out with your friends, colleagues and significant other. Keeping a cool head almost depends on a well-rested brain. You will find it extremely difficult to be patient and tolerant after a long week or after several sleep-deprived days.
- Prevents weight gain. There is a long-standing myth that warns people about falling asleep during the daytime. Several people around the world believe that sleeping more promotes weight gain. In contrary to this myth, napping prevents unwarranted weight gain. Less sleep triggers a hormone cascade that promotes hunger and binge eating. Napping can keep these “hunger hormones” in control. Your body will always be able to tell you when you have had enough to eat.
- Controls information overload. There are a lot of times students feel blank, or project managers naturally lose track of what they were presenting. These are equivalent to an HDD crash. Your brain takes in too much information hours on end, and finally, it crashes under the weight of all the unprocessed new information. It happens more frequently when students are pulling several all-nighters before their exams or when people are working night after night on some important project. Depriving yourself of adequate rest will ultimately lead to plummeting daytime performance in all spheres. Boosting your day with a 20-minute nap can prevent these unwanted episodes from happening. Power naps can improve performance and productivity levels on a daily basis.
- Improves mood. It is true for children and adults alike. Catnaps are powerful mood boosters. When something does not go the way, you expected it to, go ahead and “sleep” on it. Waking up after a 30-minute nap is like getting a fresh start. Besides, sleep-deprived people are often moody and sulky. Taking a small snooze-break can help you refocus your priorities and lift your mood significantly. That is a magic mantra almost all toddlers know by heart!
- Maintains hormonal balance. A good night’s sleep always maintains the average levels of hormones in your body. Hormones are the chemical messengers that keep the organ systems in sync. You should consider Getting a 30-minute nap can restore the balance of hormones. Sleeping for 2-3 hours per night often causes a spike in the norepinephrine levels. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure. People who do not pay enough attention to their rest schedules have higher chances of getting heart problems in the future. Sleeping for 30 minutes per day can reduce the risks by over 50%.
- Repairs the immune system. Sleep has a restorative and boosting effect on the immune system. Not sleeping for two nights in a row can compromise the Interleukin 6 levels. It is an antiviral component in the blood. The lower levels of IL-6 can increase the chances of getting a viral infection significantly. That is one of the reasons well-rested folks often find themselves safe from the flu. Sleeping also restores other components of the immune system that fight bacterial and fungal infections. Not resting for long enough can compromise the balance in the immune system.
- Helps control diabetes. A little doze between the busy hours can help you feel better physically and mentally. It has a significant impact on the cortisol levels. Cortisol secretion can increase significantly with lack of sleep. That can create glucose intolerance and increase fat storage in the body. This further increases the chances of diabetes in adults.
- Prevents heart problems. A regulated biphasic sleep can reduce adrenaline levels in the body. It can also control the stress signals that trigger palpitations and high blood pressure. Additionally, it can help with weight loss and tissue repair as well. Studies have shown that people who nap for about 30 minutes a day have 64% lesser chance of heart attack later in life.
- Boosts libido. Sleeping correctly always helps in maintaining healthy testosterone and estrogen levels. Research shows that people who add an extra hour to their daily rest each day enjoy a better sex life. Being tired mentally and physically are not at all helpful for having great sex. Enough sleep can increase your chances of having sex by 14%.
There are many benefits of regular, timely napping. Everyone can enjoy these by regulating the nap space, environment and time.
What are the Different Types of Naps?
Different nap types depend on their duration, timing and other secondary factors. Today, we will discuss the nine different types of nap that can help you turn your life around.
- The CEO nap. Your daily activity, energy level, concentration power, and mental performance will get a healthy boost from the CEO nap. That is a power nap that returns the control of your life to you. You can be the CEO of an office or your household. This nap requires you to rest between 1 and 3 pm. You will feel more alert during the rest of the day. Go ahead and try this one, as long as it does not disturb your night’s rest.
- The new mom nap. This is a great napping technique for new moms and dads. One of the most tiring parts of being a parent is not sleeping through the night to provide care to your newborn. Every night your bundle of joy turns into an attention-Zilla, who hogs up all your legit resting hours. The only way you can manage to catch up with your sleep is if you follow your child’s regimen. Nap precisely when your child naps. It might be difficult in the beginning, but with time (and surmounting tiredness) you will find it easier to fall asleep multiple times a day in coordination with your little one.
- The sports nap. This is very popular among almost all sportspersons. Whether you are playing an intense match of baseball or running a 10k marathon, all you need is well-timed nap to leave your competition behind. Catnaps are instruments of success for sports performances. Resting your eyes for 15 to 20 minutes can help you feel recharged physically and mentally. Longer naps are good as well but finding the time to fit one can be a bit challenging. It is imperative to control or avoid the sleep inertia phase after a sports nap entirely.
- The coffee nap. Several new studies show that drinking a small amount of caffeine can boost the effects of a powernap. You need about 90 to 100 mg of coffee in your system. After drinking the coffee lie down in a comfortable place and snooze for 20 minutes. Always carry a timer or an alarm clock with you to your nap spot. You will be asleep for as long as the caffeine takes to kick in. When you finally wake up, you do so with a jolt. However, the coffee nap should not be your common nap strategy. You can use it about twice a week, on hectic days for adding an extra kick to your wakefulness.
- The siesta. Siesta is a Spanish term for short-duration sleep. People in Greece, Mexico, and Costa Rica practice afternoon rest on a regular basis. Not following a biphasic sleep pattern is awkward and weird for them. These countries usually experience hotter afternoons, when resting make complete sense. Several workplaces in Japan and even in the US are trying to incorporate the practice of siesta in their everyday routines.
- The teen nap. Teenagers experience a lot of trouble adjusting to new sleep-wake schedules due to changes in their body. The hormone levels often fluctuate significantly during adolescent years making it difficult for them to stick to society-approved sleep-wake schedules. Additionally, the surmounting pressure at school and increasing amounts of physical activity lead to higher levels of fatigue. Lack of proper rest puts them on edge. They suffer higher risks of mental disorders and disturbances due to lack of sleep. 90-minute naps after school or during the weekends can help them perform better at school. Regular 20-minute naps can make them more emotionally mature and make up for their sleep debt.
- The jet lag nap. Travel related tedium is the worst kind you can get, especially if you are traveling from one country to another or across time zones. You can transition into the new time zone by scheduling naps throughout the day. You may be moving to a new place for office conference or meets. You can find out about the conference schedule and sneak in 20 to 30 minutes of nap during the break. Even if you are not staying in the new time zone for long, you can adjust to the time difference by allowing yourself a short 20-minute nap after you reach your hotel. It will keep you alert and yet in sync with the local time.
- The shift worker nap. Jobs in the 21st century are diverse. Each one has its demands and quirks. The most demanding are the shift jobs. Here the people are more likely to feel sleep deprived due to rotating shifts at their workplace. Factory workers, maintenance workers, healthcare officials, and even some government employees face the brunt of shift working. Their schedules change either every two weeks or every month. Their bodies often lose control of the internal clock. As a result, they face significant health risks. While they are always at higher risks of heart diseases, they are also more prone to depression and mood disorders. Studies on shift workers show that they can benefit to a significant degree by resorting to strategically-timed naps. Here’s what you can do if you find yourself in a similar predicament.
- Take a catnap before your shift.
- Snooze for 5 minutes during your break.
- Sleep in two segments when you get home. Rest for a longer duration after your time ends (4 to 5 hours) and take at least one 90-minute nap anytime during the day.
- The disco nap. The name is as impressive as the practice. The classic style comes from the Disco era where the BeeGees and Donna Summer ruled. Combining the coffee nap with this one has excellent benefits. It gives you the energy to pull all-nighters with little sleep during the day. Always remember;
- Disco nap is only for special occasions.
- You must get up at regular times every morning.
Napping is an exciting concept and a prevalent practice. Several schools, colleges, and offices are finally catching up to the ideas of two-phased sleep. However, if you are new to this practice, you must know that it is not for everyone. People suffering from depression and mood disorders may experience an upheaval of their circadian rhythm. Insomniacs often find it extremely difficult to fall asleep at night, if they get some rest during the day. Additionally, your power naps should always work with your night-time routine. If it pushes your bedtime further back, you will not benefit much.
How is the Contemporary Sleep Culture Shifting?
Several cities across the world are experiencing a culture shift, where office-going adults and college goers are paying for resting quarters. Some people prefer calling these places as their “recharging rooms” since they doze here regularly to boost their energy levels. People have finally found out that snoozing a little is more effective than drinking a Red Bull or coffee. It includes workplaces like the New York Police Department Midtown South station. They have recently installed a nap pod inside the premises to promote wellness among their recruits.
Emerging mobile applications like Recharge allows the users to book hotel rooms for little amounts to sleep. That’s right! People are ready to pay as much as $10 per half an hour in NYC to get some well-deserved sleep. People have finally understood how a 30-minute catnap can improve the rest of their days. Sleep schedules have been a part of social construct for a long time, and the sleep culture is finally changing. People are finally ready to move on from the more conventional and more western monophasic sleep to biphasic and polyphasic patterns.
A Little bit More About Napping and You
Investigations into sleeping quality and sleeping hygiene show that coupling the right sleep schedule with the right kind of food and drinks helps in improving rest. People who refrain from using their mobile phones at least 3 hours before bedtime or do not drink coffee late in the evening often find it easier to fall asleep. If you are new to napping, you might find it very difficult to fall asleep on command for 20 or 30 minutes.
Believe it or not, even power naps take a lot of practice. To perfect the art of enjoying small breaks during the day, try to stick to strict timings and use an alarm clock. For the first few days you might find it impossible to doze off, but gradually, it will come to you! One day you will see yourself waking up to the alarm, fresh like it’s the first hour of the morning.
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Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic