Sometimes we only need to get comfortable and have a cool temperature to fall asleep, but we also don’t want to neglect our responsibilities. This is where I think that the Spanish and Mexicans have the right idea: They have a tradition of taking a siesta after lunch; this could be as short as 15-30 minutes or as long as three hours.
You’ll see that many stores in Spain are closed from 2-5 pm for the siesta. While the Spanish began this tradition as a way of escaping the heat at this time of the day, many other countries have now recognized the benefits of taking such a break.
While the reasons for taking a nap may differ, the benefits tend to be the same. Restoring energy is not the only benefit a nap offers although it may be the one that immediately comes to mind. The other benefits naps offer are determined by often and when you take a nap as well as how long you’re awake for between naps. Here are five benefits to taking a nap.
1) Improves physical performance
There are days that you feel very tired after work and don’t want to go to the gym. When this happens, a brief nap can help. I bet that you already know that a short nap makes you feel more active in comparison to a long nap. For example, I often tell my mother that I still feel tired when I’ve slept for several hours, but I feel very energetic when I’ve only slept for an hour or two.
Studies have found a correlation between short naps and improved athletic abilities, including faster sprint times and better motor reaction. This is why it’s recommended to sleep well for at least 7 hours a day.
Plus, you can’t survive without sleep. In less than a week, your body will start giving you bad signals. If you are an athlete, you use a lot of energy every day. This means that you need to sleep well unless you want to have negative implications during training or before competition.
2) Reduces stress and anxiety
Not sleeping well can make you feel more irritable and stressful. To address the problem, you can take a nap. A 2012 study by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed evidence of how taking a nap reduce stress hormones after sleep deprivation. The adults took two short naps during the day, each lasting about 30 minutes, and they had a poor night’s sleep of just two hours. Then, the researchers measured and compared stress hormones with people who didn’t take naps but were sleep deprived.
They found that one of the three stress hormones measured, called noradrenaline, increased the day after the sleep deprivation, but it didn’t increase in the adults who took naps. From this study, we can’t conclude a person recovers from stress by napping, but the short naps help to control the stress hormones. If you have children with bad behavior, they could be having trouble with their sleep. Sometimes they are like adults; we get cranky when we don’t sleep well, so try to take naps with them.
3) Improves cognitive function
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences showed evidence that a short nap can really improve alertness and aspects of mental and physical performance. The researchers had ten healthy male adults for the study.
They either napped or sat quietly from 1 pm to 1:30 pm after a night of a few hours’ sleep. 30 minutes after the nap, they were tested for various changes in performance. The adults who took a nap experienced improvements in alertness, short-term memory, intra-aural temperature, heart rate and scores on a short test.
In other words, naps can help you with learning and remembering things just like sleeping does. So, if you are going to study or you want to be more alert, try taking a nap for 60-90 minutes. It can help you with your mental performance for up to 24 hours. A nap can also help people who suffer fatigue to stay more alert and to have a better cognitive functioning.
4) Fights food cravings
It is believed that being tired leads to being hungry or to have food cravings. This usually happens in the afternoon because you want to feel awake, so you start to eat sweets, sodas, chocolate or coffee to try to stabilize your blood sugar. If you are trying to cut calories in your diet, don’t do this. It is not good for your health either.
If you have 30 minutes, try taking a brief nap instead—or a brief walk. It is a good way to curb cravings and improve your mood. We need to lower our stress hormones and restore our concentration and willpower to avoid food cravings. We can do this with a short nap or walk or both.
5) Benefits heart health
Besides stress and depression, not sleeping well can also take years off of your life, but don’t you worry: napping can help. A study by the University of Athens Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that people who took naps regularly had lower coronary mortality than those who didn’t. ‘Regular’ naps, for the researchers, were the ones that took place at least three times a week for 30 minutes each.
Similarly, the National Institute of Health thinks that naps are useful for lowering the stress that comes with having a stressful job or one that comes from overextending yourself. If you are asking why I mentioned stress, high stress can contribute to heart disease, causing inflammation. This is why doctors recommend taking time to relax when you are stressed out. This time can help to minimize heightened risk factors for heart disease.
So, if you have the time, are you going to take a nap? If I can and I feel sleepy, I will. Besides, I love dreaming crazy things when I sleep. It’s like having another life.