All In Favor of Naptime - Don’t Feel Guilty, It’s Good For You
In China, workers are allowed to put their heads down on their desks for a good hour-long nap. In Spain, the siesta is a midday break that can last up to two hours and includes naptime. In Italy, riposo is the time of day during which businesses shut down so workers can enjoy a long lunch and a nap, an interlude that may last several hours in the afternoon. In the United States, on the other hand, we don’t see a lot of time set aside for napping.
The practice of taking a little snooze in the afternoon gets a bad rap here in the U.S. Those who nap are often thought of as lazy, unmotivated or unenergetic—unless you’re under five or over 65, that is. Studies have proven that those labels are wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. Naps can be beneficial in many ways, including helping to restore alertness, enhance performance and provide rest and rejuvenation.
“Naps can help improve attention and cognitive abilities,” says Dr. Jose Colon, a sleep medicine specialist with Lee Physician Group.
“Naps can also improve moods, lower stress and energize one’s mind,” adds Stacey C. Brown, MA, LMHC, a Fort Myers-based mental health counselor.
In fact, a nap study conducted by NASA found that working memory performance also benefits from naps. Furthermore, a study conducted by University of Michigan doctoral student Jennifer Goldschmied found that people were less impulsive and had greater tolerance for frustration after waking from a 60-minute midday nap.
While many don’t have a whole hour to take off for a nap, even 20 to 40 minutes of rest can help invigorate and improve productivity. “I prescribe napping for a multitude of reasons,” says Colon.
Not everyone is a napper, but still, even taking a rest provides many of the same benefits. “The yoga community advocates for taking a ‘yoga nidra,’ which is a deeply relaxed state of being while reclining for 20 minutes,” adds Brown. Although it’s not a nap, it is a deep, restful state. “Almost every culture has something that is embedded that encourages rest, restoration, nurturing and relaxing. We tend to forget that, and there is a cost,” explains Brown, who specializes in anxiety, depression and stress management. She also offers training in relaxation, meditation and yoga.
While all adults—and children—can benefit from naps, some people have sleep problems such as hormonal changes, sleep apnea, vitamin deficiencies, depression and anxiety, which can impede healthy sleep patterns. “These medical conditions need to be resolved in order to have better overall health and sleep,” explains Brown. Those who work graveyard shifts, such as healthcare providers, police officers and even retail employees, must sleep during the day, which can be a challenge to get adequate rest, considering that it’s generally lighter and less quiet in the day.
“If we do not take time and value our need for rest, we will pay for it later with grouchiness, an inability to concentrate, poor stress management, susceptibility to illness and disease, and cognitive decline. We need rest,” says Brown.
The U.S is slowly waking up to the benefits of napping. In fact, some organizations such as Google, PwC and the University of Miami now provide their workers and students with high-tech nap pods. For more than a decade, Ben & Jerry’s has had an office nap room, as the ice cream company has long believed that napping makes for happier and more productive employees.
Tips for Good Nap
Give yourself a naptime limit. Anything over 40 minutes or so can sometimes interfere with your nighttime sleep.
Don’t nap too late in the day. The best time of day is between noon and 4 p.m.; any later and your nap can interfere with your nighttime sleep.
If you don’t have 20-40 minutes, even a 10-minute power nap can do wonders and help with alertness.
If you can’t sleep, opt to meditate, read a book or put your feet up. The idea is to let your body and mind take a break.
If you can’t lie down at all, try a short walk to restore your energy and mood.
When napping at home, try creating your own nap pod. Find a comfy chair and a cozy blanket. Turn off the lights and pull the curtains shut. Your body will soon associate the idea of a nap with an environment like this.