The Science Behind Napping, and How to Make It a Habit
If you’re feeling stressed, fatigued, or have had an emotional day, taking a nap may help push the reset button and clear your mind. Research suggests there are many health benefits to taking that nap — for example, naps may even make you smarter.
Here’s a closer look at the science behind napping and tips for making napping a habit.
The Sleep-Brain Connection
A study published in the journal Progress in Brain Research shows a direct connection between sleep deprivation and cognitive and intellectual abilities. The less you sleep, the harder it becomes to think clearly, remember things and stay focused for long periods of time. Everybody has a certain level of intellectual capacity — the rate at which they can process new information and retain information for future use. Without proper sleep, that information doesn’t get encoded into the brain properly, as noted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This can hamper your ability to retrieve facts, ideas, concepts or even words.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder. Chronic sleep problems affect 50 to 80 percent of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, according to experts at Harvard Medical School. While the relationship between sleep and mental health is still not completely understood, a good night’s sleep can “foster both mental and emotional resilience,” according to Harvard experts.
The Power of Power Naps
Napping may help restore some of that optimal brain function, offering an opportunity to catch up on compromised nighttime sleep. A study published in the journal Sleep found that just 3 minutes of stage 2 sleep — the stage where brain waves become slower and eye movements stop — can help.
According to the Wall Street Journal,a 10- to 20-minute nap is all you need to improve alertness and boost energy. Snoozing for 30 minutes offers some restorative benefits, the Journal notes, whereas 60 minutes is enough time to enter a deep sleep stage that can help you remember details. However, anything beyond 60 minutes increases the chances you’ll feel groggy.
Timing naps is just as important as clocking them in. Studies noted in the Journal of Sleep Research found that taking a nap between 3 and 5 p.m. offers more benefits than taking a nap between 7 and 9 p.m., which could negatively impact nighttime sleep.
Making Napping a Habit
For your best sleep quick-fix, keep these tips in mind:
- Set up a dedicated space for napping.
- Nap at the same time every day to make it part of your routine.
- Set a timer or alarm clock to avoid falling into a deep sleep state.
- Make time for naps on busier or more stressful days, even if that seems counterintuitive.
- If you work in an office, break away to the car or an employee lounge for your nap. Some companies even provide nap rooms, according to Inc.
- Take more naps when you are preparing for a big test or need to learn a lot of information quickly.
Sleep helps our brains sort information it received during the day. Napping offers some of those benefits too, and can help make up for any disturbed nighttime sleep, keeping you in a better mood and better able to function all day.
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