Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to Take the Perfect Nap

By Linda Wasmer Andrews
May 23, 2012
Getting caught napping might not be such a bad thing after all. A growing body of research shows that a catnap can have a host of health benefits.

Among other things, a short nap can decrease drowsiness and fatigue, restore alertness, boost mood, sharpen motor skills, bolster learning, and improve mental performance. Plus, it feels like an indulgence, and that in itself can be delightfully relaxing.

But a nap that lasts too long can leave you feeling groggy rather than rejuvenated. And a nap too late in the day can interfere with nighttime sleep. 

Here’s an A to Zzzs guide to taking an effective, efficient nap.
 
A Is for Afternoon Snooze
For healthy non-elderly adults, a morning nap is generally too early; your body may not be ready for sleep yet. An evening nap is generally too late; you may have trouble falling asleep at your usual bedtime. But an early afternoon nap starting between 1:00 and 3:00 is just right for countering a post-lunch slump.

Keep it short and sweet. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer can cause sleep inertia—a groggy, disoriented feeling that may persist for several minutes after awakening from a deep slumber. For waking up alert and ready to work, research suggests that the ideal nap length is 10 to 20 minutes.

At Work
Studies have shown that napping can enhance job performance and reduce accidents and mistakes. Some companies have embraced that idea, setting aside napping rooms or installing futuristic EnergyPods where employees can grab 40 winks.

Still, there’s a stigma attached to napping in most offices, where “lying down on the job” is equated with laziness. So if you aren’t lucky enough to work for a pro-napping company, look for an out-of-the-way spot, such as an empty conference room, where you can doze off without being judged or disturbed.

Make yourself comfortable. If possible, shut the door, turn off the phone, switch off the lights, and shut the blinds. But if you can’t make the room dark and quiet, a sleep mask and earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can be good alternatives.

At Home
At home, stretching out on a couch is a great way to spend a few minutes on a weekend afternoon. But lounging in a hammock may be even better.

A study from the University of Geneva in Switzerland helps explain why. The study utilized a special bed that could either sway slowly like a hammock or stay still. Volunteers were lulled to sleep faster when the bed swayed. What’s more, EEG monitoring showed that the gentle rocking led to changes in their brain activity consistent with deeper sleep.

Zzzs Are for High Achievers
Nappers aren’t slackers, if history books are any indication. The roster of notable nappers includes Napoleon, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy.

In many cultures, siestas are built into the rhythm of daily life. And in more than 85% of mammal species, short periods of sleep during the day come naturally. Some scientists argue that human are meant to take daily naps as well. So go ahead and snooze. You’ll be in good company.

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