The Benefits of Napping
By Jessica Herrington
Remember when you were five-years old and taking a nap was a mandatory part of your day? Adults would exclaim “Nap time!” much to your dismay. If you were at school, teachers would draw the curtains and you’d lie next to your friends on mats; if you were at home, your mom would drag you into your room and tuck you into bed. If you were like me, most of the time you would just lie there, fuming and daydreaming about all the fun things you could be doing instead. At that age, nap-time usually wasn’t a welcomed activity.
Things change as an adult, and nap-time becomes a rare luxury. This hilarious cartoon says it all. Unfortunately, it is not really feasible when you work a regular nine-to-five job (the image of George Costanza sleeping under his desk comes to mind). Some people claim taking a quick “cat-nap” leaves them feeling refreshed; others say instead they’re left feeling groggy. If that’s the case, you’re likely sleep-deprived, meaning you need more solid hours of sleep, and that can’t be solved by a 30-minute nap.
Imagine if napping were a part of your regular workday? Studies have shown an improvement in cognitive performance following a short nap: individuals had an increase in alertness, energy, and focus. Napping also helps prevent burnout and even reduces the risk of heart disease. The result is an improvement in overall productivity. And while it’s tempting to keep sleeping once you get a taste, don’t exceed 30 minutes or you risk falling into a deeper, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which when woken from leads to sleep inertia (feeling groggy and disoriented).
Napping may not be for everyone. In my first year of university, my new best friend and I were basically attached at the hip, except when she went to take one of her frequent naps. I didn’t fully understand it—it’d be 1pm on a Wednesday and she’d be napping, and all I could think was “we just woke up like 5 hours ago, how can she sleep?” I felt there were more productive ways to spend one’s time, while she argued that napping made her more productive. Unless I was sick or had a late night out, I was never able to sleep during the day. I had too much anxiety over things I should or could be doing.
Now, five years later, that has only changed slightly. I still can’t take a full-on nap, but I do take five- or ten-minute rest periods (I even took one while writing this article) where I just close my eyes and relax. I don’t actually sleep, but I try to tune things out. It’s similar to getting up and going for a quick walk to clear my head.
So whether you’re an avid napper who can do the full 30 minutes or a novice who can only rest for 10 minutes, rest assured knowing there is proof that even adults benefit from a time-out during the day.
If you’re curious about the process that occurs in your body while you nap, visit this link.