A nap may be just the reboot you need to power through the day
When you lack sleep, many things can start to go wrong – your energy’s low, your memory’s weak, you have trouble making decisions or focusing on a task. While nothing can really replace a good night’s rest, taking the occasional midday nap can help recharge and refresh a tired mind and body. As the saying goes, a little goes a long way.
A nap can…
Boost alertness and mental focus
Most of us are guilty of overworking. When our list of to-dos grows longer by the minute, stopping for a brief siesta may seem unproductive, and worse, overindulgent. But if you push yourself too hard, you’ll be on the express train to a burnout – not to mention your work quality suffers.
A good compromise is to take just half an hour or less out of your busy schedule to snooze. A 26-minute catnap can jumpstart your concentration, increasing performance by 34 per cent and alertness by 54 per cent1. As a rule of thumb, a 10-20 minute nap is enough to recharge your batteries as it falls within the lighter sleep stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM). This means you’ll wake up refreshed, alert, and ready to get cracking again.
Help in recall and memory
Why do some things stick in our minds but not others? How can we transfer things from short to long-term memory? If you find yourself mugging for tests or reading reports but struggling to process and recall information, a power nap can be your best friend.
One element found in both light and deep sleep are ‘sleep spindles’. These bursts of neural activity help to consolidate fresh memories2. For cognitive memory processing, a longer 60-minute doze may be more effective, as it leads to deeper, slow-wave sleep which supports decision-making skills, as well as the ability to memorise facts or recall directions3.
Lift your mood and combat health risks
When you’re feeling the blues, how do you cheer yourself up? Binge on comfort food or go on a shopping spree? While they may make you feel better in the short-term, they won’t do your waist or wallet any favours. Naps are a better, more stabilising mood fixer. Not only can it ease that blah feeling – remember how much of a better frame of mind you were in the last time you woke from a quick shuteye? – it’s also better for your health.
A study of over 23,000 volunteers in Greece found that participants who napped at least thrice a week, averaging half an hour, had a 37 per cent reduced risk of death by heart disease4. This was compared to those who didn’t usually nap.
How to nap right
The best time for a nap is usually mid afternoon, around 2 or 3 pm5; this is typically the time when you might experience post-lunch sluggishness or feel less alert. Nap any later than that however, and you might have problems sleeping at night.
To get the most out of a power nap, finding the right place or setting is important. These days, some gyms provide sleep pods where members can catch some Z’s. If you prefer your own cosy spot to doze off, consider getting a good recliner.
An ergonomic recliner with generous reclining angles and a cushioned backrest provides good back and neck support, relaxing muscles and easing pressure on the spine. Some come with a footrest to prop up your legs too – which makes a recliner the closest thing you can get (next to your bed) that offers a comfortable supine sleep position.
Make sure to dim the lights around you and turn the volume down on any nearby devices. A dark, cool and quiet space is an ideal environment to let your mind and body relax so you can quickly get down to napping.
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1 US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
2 The Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
3 Sara C. Mednick, PhD, sleep expert and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life
4 Harvard School of Public Health
5 Mayo Clinic