For years now Americans have been told that a good night’s sleep directly impacts our health. However, it still isn’t easy for many of us to get in the seven to nine hours recommended each night. Now we’re bringing in the big research guns from NASA and major universities around the world to show us how sleeping during the day – or napping – could provide a quick way to help you recharge, reduce stress and boost your mood.
- Nap Like a Rocket Scientist!
NASA conducted a study that focused on astronauts’ sleep patterns to determine if napping made a difference. To measure how effective the naps were, the scientists gave volunteers a battery of tests probing memory, alertness, response time, and other cognitive skills throughout the experiment.
Results showed that the main cognitive function improved by napping was “working memory.” Working memory involves focusing attention on one task while holding other tasks in memory – critical to performing complex work like piloting a spaceship. Poor working memory could result in errors.
Interestingly, they found naps didn't work as well for volunteers on a nocturnal schedule who napped during the daytime. These out-of-sync volunteers had a hard time waking from naps, and the grogginess of sleep inertia lasted for up to an hour.
- Naps Can Save Your Life
A Harvard Medical study shows that in addition to increased cognitive function, naps can facilitate problem-solving, bolster creative thinking and decrease the margin for error. A study out of Greece evaluated the effect napping had on blood pressure and found that when subjects took a midday nap, they had an average 5.5-point drop in their systolic blood pressure. A prior study proved subjects that napped three times a week had 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
- What’s the Perfect Power Nap?
Power naps can be rejuvenating, but how long you sleep makes a difference. Too little and you still feel tired; too much and you could feel groggier and less alert.
NASA says between 10 and 20 minutes is just right. According to their studies people who napped for 20 minutes showed great improvement in alertness and cognizance. Beyond 20 minutes, you risk sliding into a different sleep stage that requires more time for your body to feel refreshed. University of California at Irvine researchers agree. Their study showed that a 90-minute nap covers a full sleep cycle taking you from the lightest to the deepest stages of sleep and back so you wake up refreshed, decompressed and may even get the creative juices flowing again.
A study from Loughborough University in the U.K. found that a 20-minute nap can make up for one hour of lost sleep and can boost performance. However, a nap after 3:00 p.m. could interfere with nighttime sleep.
- Sleeping In vs. Napping
The University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center says that if you’re exhausted by the time Saturday arrives, you should opt for a midday nap rather than a marathon overnight sleep. Their sleep experts also found that reserving your circadian rhythms by keeping stable wake times on the weekend and limiting nighttime light exposure may also improve your sleep quality during the week.
There’s even a large group of people called polyphasic sleeper who use daytime sleep and napping as a core part of their regular sleep schedule.
- Naps Make Business Cents
Lack of sleep is estimated to have cost U.S. employers $411 billion a year in lost productivity. Several U.S. companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, Google and The Huffington Post have added nap rooms to their offices.
Now is a good time to share this with your boss and take a nap!