Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org
Naps have a terrible reputation. Taking a midday nap may cause your coworkers to label you as lazy or unmotivated. However, napping for less than an hour may improve your productivity for the rest of the day. People who sleep more are also less likely to report chronic conditions, like coronary artery disease and arthritis. Although naps look like laziness in the short-term, the long-term benefits are immense.
Improve Your Memory
For centuries, people have suggested that memories are consolidated during sleep. Recent studies support this idea. A team was able to predict how well participants would score on a memory test based on their heart rate during a daytime nap. A high-quality nap is likely to boost your ability to remember recently learned facts.
To help with memorization and learning, Dr. Mednick, a sleep researcher, recommends a 20 to 60-minute nap. Longer naps may lead to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which has different benefits.
A longer nap that includes REM sleep may help you come up with more creative solutions to problems. A 90-minute nap is likely long enough to allow you to slip into REM. This stage is where dreaming occurs, and it may help with associating ideas and thinking creatively. Participants who participated in a creativity test came up with more original answers after a long nap.
If you’re struggling with a problem at work, sneaking out to your car to “sleep on it” could lead you to a solution.
Be More Alert
Most of us deal with a mid-afternoon slump, but we power through and finish our day. Some people in high-stress jobs don’t have that option. Air traffic controllers must be alert during their entire shift, even when it’s at night. Researchers tested a scheduled nap for air traffic controllers and measured how it improved their performance. These naps were typically short and easily disturbed, but participants reported improved alertness after a nap.
Even if your nap is only nineteen minutes long and you wake up six times, it’s still probably better than struggling to stay awake. You’re likely to feel more alert afterward.
Sleeping an adequate number of hours (usually seven hours for adults) may reduce your risk for chronic conditions. Although the pathways aren’t well understood, people who sleep enough tend to be healthier. There may even be a link between poor sleep quality and cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension and cardiac failure. Making time for sleep may be an easy way to lower your risk of disease.
Sleeping more is a health goal, but it may be hard to achieve. It requires a commitment to carving out time for a full night’s rest. Naps can help, but they don’t take the place of sleeping through the night. Buying a budget-friendly mattress that supports your preferred sleep position may allow you to slip into a deeper sleep. You can also limit distractions in your bed by blocking out light pollution with blackout curtains or minimizing sounds with a white noise machine.
Naps may improve your productivity at work and home, but they don’t take the place of the deep sleep that you need to maintain your health. Making time for both types of rest will help you to receive all the health benefits of sleep.