You probably recognise this scenario. You've enjoyed your lunch but now you want lie down on your sofa and have a snooze. But you resist the temptation because napping is for people in their dotage and dogs, right? Wrong. Naps can actually benefit everyone. In the short term they can make you more productive and creative and in the long term they may actually prolong your life.
Clinical tests have proven that taking a power nap allows the right hand side of the brain to be especially active. This is different to how the brain acts for the majority of us when we are awake, because most of us, particularly those of us who are right-handed, use the left part of our brain the most thoroughly. What is the brain up to? According to Dr Andrei Medvedev at Georgetown University, USA, the brain is undertaking mental housekeeping. It uses this time to organise and process information. This has a number of knock on effects that may persuade you to take that power nap after all.
Naps improve memory. When memories are first recorded in the brain (in the hippocampus) they are fresh and fragile like wet clay. They can be easily forgotten or over written, particularly if you are trying to remember many new things at once. When you nap, the memories are pushed into the neocortex which is the brain's permanent storage facility.
Naps improve productivity. Rest time allows the brain to process and organise anything that is newly learned. We then consolidate that information. This means that the best way to produce or improve results is to spend time learning new skills and information and then sleep on it. Workers become less productive as the working day progresses, but research has demonstrated that a nap will boost performance.
Naps facilitate increased creativity. Given that during nap time and periods of sleep it is the right hand side of the brain that is active, anything that is creative will improve after your nap. This can be writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, problem solving or dancing. Right brain activity relaxes the mind and allows it to freely make new associations and connections with other parts of the brain. This will spark new and bright ideas in your mind leading to enhanced creativity.
Naps allow you to top up your sleep. If you suffer with insomnia and you aren't getting the requisite sleep, a nap every now and again will help you meet your quota and as a result you will be more alert.
Naps increase alertness. After a nap you will be refreshed and this will improve the performances of your senses. According to Dr Sandra C Mednick, a nap can provide you with increased sensitivity of sound, sight and taste.
Naps make you a nicer person to be around. People who are fatigued tend to be moody, aggressive and irritable. They are prone to stress. Taking a nap will increase your patience and decrease irritability. You go to sleep a bear and wake up as a pussycat.
Naps can prolong your life. Excess amounts of cortisol and insulin are found in those people who sleep poorly and are linked to diabetes and heart disease. Taking a nap helps to reduce the amount of cortisol in the blood stream. Cortisol is a stress hormone that makes us feel wired. Reducing the cortisol by taking a nap can lead to better health in the long term and make us feel more relaxed and better able to cope with stress, anxiety and uncertainty.
Naps may be equated with brilliance. Famous nappers include Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon and JFK.
Many people are naturally drowsy in the afternoon, and several productive cultures such as Spain, China and Japan actively encourage nap taking. The optimum length of a nap is just 15 to 30 minutes. This short time span is imperative in order to avoid you going into deeper stages of sleep. Sleeping deeply can make it difficult for you to wake up or will impact on the sleep you have at night.
Why not give power napping a try and see if it works for you?