Power Napping—Why You Should Consider a Midday Snooze
You are not slacking off work if you take a nap—research supports this. A nap is just what you need to recharge from the midday slump.
Are we all not tempted to snuggle into a quick nap when midday drowsiness kicks in? Well, 51% of people around the world have agreed that they enjoy taking a nap in the afternoon. Whether it is to compensate for a loss of sleep the previous night, preparing for an overnight shift or just for the sake of taking a snooze, a quick power nap has many benefits to offer than just restfulness.
The benefits of taking a power nap
The perks of napping extend beyond making up for lost sleep. Here are some reasons why you should take a nap:
1. The landmark study titled Comparing the benefits of Caffeine, Naps and Placebo on Verbal, Motor and Perceptual Memory conducted by the the Department of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, USA states, napping for 60-90 minutes outbeat caffeine in an experiment covering performance in perceptual learning, procedural motor skill, and verbal memory considerably more than caffeine.
2. A study conducted on 2,974 people in China (65 years and older) shows that nearly 60% of the people reported napping after lunch for about an hour. It was found that people who napped for 30-90 minutes had better word recall (a sign of good memory) than people who did not nap or who napped for 90+ minutes. Participants who napped for 30-90 minutes were also better at figure drawing which is another sign of good cognition.
3. Another research confirms that a nap can benefit the hippocampus—responsible for learning and memory. Matthew Walker, PhD, Professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues conducted a study which involved taxing volunteer’s associative memories. They were given a long list of name-face pairings and asked to memorise them. After this, a section of the participants took 90-minute midday naps. On waking, participants were given another round of learning exercises. These participants did better on the later test than those who didn’t nap. This indicates that sleep boosted their capacity for learning.
4. Research links a power nap to better cognitive functioning, increased alertness and reduced stress. According to a study titled The effects of napping on cognitive functioning, a nap taken for more than 30 minutes can cause temporary impairment (after waking) due to sleep inertia, but then produce long hours of improved cognitive performance.
The best time to take a nap
It is common for people to experience drowsiness in the afternoon after 8 hours of waking. This is because of the human circadian cycle which causes decreased alertness in the afternoon.
The Sleep Foundation suggests a nap at the point (mid-day) between the time you wake up and the time you usually sleep. Napping later in the day can make it difficult to fall asleep later in the night.
The best nap length for most people is about 10-20 minutes as it promotes restorative sleep without drowsiness after waking. However, a 1-hour nap has many more restorative effects than a 30-minute nap. According to Sleep.org, most people take naps between 15-30 minutes.
Different types of naps
- Appetitive Nap: The Sleep Foundation defines appetitive naps as a brief period of rest that an individual would take to enjoy the experience of a quick sleep. Appetitive naps can help improve mood and energy levels.
- Essential Nap: An emergency nap comes as a response to an illness. This nap improves your body’s ability to fight infections and viruses.
- Prophylactic Nap: This type of nap is taken ahead of or during important hours of the day to avoid sleepiness at the required time. For example, during work (applicable to night shift workers).
- Restorative Nap: The restorative nap may be used to help you recover from sleep deprivation or interrupted sleep from the previous day.