Nap it in the Bud!
“I have left orders to be awakened at any time during national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting”, declared 40th Prez of the US Ronald Reagan: #LOL.
If you like to nap, you’re in good company. Margaret Thatcher was infamous for sleeping a paltry four hours per night, but capitalised on daytime naps. Winston Churchill was the same.
If you don’t like to nap, you might be missing a trick: scientists now believe a daytime nap could improve your performance at work: a power nap after lunch can serve to rejuvenate as much as the proverbial ‘good night’s sleep’. This is especially true for learning and memory. Psychologist Sara Mednick from the University of California, Riverside demonstrated that people performed better at a visual texture distinguishing task after a night’s rest than immediately after learning it. Furthermore, this improved performance was replicated after a 60 to 90 minute nap: “What’s amazing is that in a 90-minute nap, you can get the same benefits as an eight-hour sleep period”, marvelled Mednick.
Vincent Walsh, prof of human brain research at University College London naps every afternoon: “It’s only since the industrial revolution we have been obsessed with squeezing all our sleep into the night rather than having one or two sleeps during the day”.
Research on napping? Too many studies to mention… A study on astronauts and military pilots undertaken at NASA showed a 40 minute nap improved performance by one-third and alertness by 100%… A research group at the University of Pennsylvania found that an afternoon catnap boosted workers’ cognition and memory and effectively transported their brains back to half a decade earlier from a performance point of view. The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, involved 3000 participants. They were given maths problems to solve, drawings of shapes to replicate as well as recall tasks. It emerged that those who catnapped after their lunch (c. 3/5 of the subjects) performed significantly better overall: #ABeautifulMind AND the holy grail of eternal youth in exchange for an hour’s catnap… Where do I sign up?!
As you’d imagine, a regular afternoon nap has been shown to reduce stress and improve the health of your heart and blood vessels. Findings from a study involving almost 400 men and women, presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual conference, showed afternoon naps to substantially reduce blood pressure.
David LLoyd Leisure, the premium gym chain, has introduced ‘Napercise’ to its repertoire of classes. This hour-long class aims to “reinvigorate the mind, improve moods and burn calories” and offers 45 minutes of undisturbed sleep. A bed, fluffy duvet and eye mask are provided, along with pre- and post-class stretches: at last, the #WorkoutOfMyDreams… Literally!
Access to a dark, cosy space would be necessary if you were to attempt to nap at work. Places like Google provide dedicated nap zones #obvs. Worried your nap will turn into a full-on sleep sesh? Have a coffee before you doze off and set your alarm for 20 minutes… The caffeine will kick in by the time your alarm does. Unable to quell racing thoughts? A mindfulness body scan might do the trick – youtube it if you still have yet to try one!
Can you have too much of a good thing? “There is a period of no man’s land for napping”, warns Dr. Fiona Kerr, a neuro specialist at the University of Adelaide who advises 15-30 minute naps: “between 30 and 60 minutes isn’t good, because your brain is thinking it’s heading into REM mode” and you’ll wake up groggy and dazed. But the jury is out on the optimum length. The many studies I perused advocate anything from a 15-60 minutes. You might just have to figure out what works for you by trial and error.
I dare you to suggest introducing a slot for an afternoon siesta at #WerkWerkWerk? Proffer the Terra Nova report entitled, “Catching up on sleep, a public affair”! I’ll allow you to take one for the team on this occasion – I should probably hold off on that suggestion for a while seeing as I arrived at a fairly leisurely time for what I though was a 9am start at the GP surgery when I was actually scheduled to be working in a hospital 6km away: #Mondaze!
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