Nappers of the world, rejoice! Now there is scientific evidence to back what we’ve always known: a nap is great for your health.
Having kids has been great for me in that respect. For years and years, naps were just what we did after lunch. Sure, I was sleep deprived from being up in the night, but I also relished the opportunity to slow down, read a book, get a little shut eye and recharge for the second half of the day.
Now, none of my children nap any more. But I still have them convinced that after lunch on the weekends is for quiet time – reading, playing quietly…anything that will leave Mum alone so I have the option of napping.
Of course, in Europe napping is an almost continent-wide pastime, with afternoon siestas often factored into everyone’s work days, and city centres coming to a standstill in the afternoons while everyone rests.
But unfortunately, it’s not like that in Australia. To hold down a regular job or function as part of society, you’re generally expected to remain conscious for the entirety of the daylight hours.
Insisting on a nap can be perceived as weird, or just downright lazy. As a dedicated napper, I know this for a fact. But studies have shown that short naps can improve your awareness and productivity. The best news? It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to reap the benefits.
A study by the University of Colorado found that children who skip their afternoon nap showed less joy and interest, lower level problem solving skills, and had a higher level of anxiety than those that took a nap.
Well, I could have told them that.
But the same goes for adults as well. Researchers at Berkeley University found adults who regularly take naps are better at learning and have a better memory than those who don’t.
Turns out napping is important because it gives your brain a chance to reboot, where it clears out the short-term memory and refreshes itself with loads of new defragged space.
Makes sense, right?
How long should you nap?
Great news if you don’t have much time on your hands. You can get everything you need out of a nap in 10 to 20 minutes. That means your sleep won’t be as deep as you would expect from a longer sleep, and you’ll be able to get back up and resume your day without feeling groggy.
If you can manage a 60 minute nap, you’ll reap the same benefits of the shorter nap, but even more so. And your body won’t have had a chance to drift into deep sleep yet.
You can take a 90 minute nap too, if you like, but that’s venturing into deep sleep territory, and it can be harder to wake up again. That sort of nap is only recommended for those that aren’t getting enough sleep at night. But as it’s a complete sleep cycle, the 90 minute nap can have great benefits on your emotional memory and creativity.
So there you go. Naps are great for your brain. Now if we can just convince our kids…