In some places, the work day is organized around afternoon naps. Everyone goes home for them. Unfortunately, in America – more focused on our corporate lifestyles than our health – a mid-day nap is seen as a sign of pure laziness. But before you worry about not working hard enough if you decide to take a nap or fall asleep during a movie, rest assured that napping is good for your health. It’s a natural part of the circadian (sleep-wake cycle) rhythm.
As the day progresses, even if we’ve had a restful night of sleep, our focus and clarity of thinking degrade. While this may be an annoyance in our modern lives, for our ancestors this could have meant life or death when hunting for your livelihood. It was incredibly important to be well rested so that you could perform when it was needed most.
Big name companies recognize this, with Google and Apple being two examples that have allowed employees to have nap time. Studies confirm that short naps improve awareness and productivity. Who doesn’t want to work with a company where you’re allowed to get some nap time in during the day?
A study from the University of Colorado Boulder found that children who missed out on nap time evinced less joy and interest, had more anxiety and were less able to solve problems than their counterparts who had naps. It’s the same with adults.
So how long should you nap?
Experts say a 10 to 20-minute “power nap” is ideal for improving your energy and alertness. It’s not as deep as longer naps, which helps you to get right back at your day when you wake up. 30-minute naps lead to 30 minutes of grogginess afterward, as you are often waking just as the body enters the deeper stages of sleep. You’ll experience some of this if you sleep for an hour, but 60-minute naps are good for memory boosting. The longest naps – around 90 minutes – are good for those who just don’t get enough sleep at night. It’s a complete sleep cycle and improves emotional memory and creativity.
Naps are good for you – but don’t neglect your usual sleep time at night. You should take your nap along with getting a good night’s sleep.