Though taking a siesta is considered taboo – it seems that many people would rather go to the dentist than take a nap – this isn’t new. People who sleep during the day have long been chided for their perceived laziness, or worse.
It is a shame because the benefits when you take a nap are well established. Also, scientific research now supports the traditional wisdom of taking a short sleep-break during the day.
So we have a situation where something which is free, non-toxic, recommended by science, and without any unwanted side effects, is so out of favour that many people would rather ignore the advice and suffer the consequences, than take a nap.
That isn’t to say that we are all chronically tired and in need of extra sleep. In fact, sleep experts recommend NOT taking a nap to make up for lost sleep. Insomnia is another issue, I explain all about it in my sleep course.
So, if napping isn’t about lost sleep, then what? Superficially, it’s about replenishing physical and mental energy levels, but it goes much deeper. At a physical level, sleep allow us to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones, and so on. But it is how the brain uses sleep that is one of the main benefits of taking a napto make sense of the world, store memories, and help us manage our emotions.
Old ideas are hard to shift
Wherever negative notions around taking a nap came from, there is no doubt that they are hard to shift. Obviously, this is partly to do with beliefs and practices around work, which still insist that ‘productivity’ can only be about making and doing. Resting has never been part of the equation.
Outdated viewpoints are also due to ignorance. Attitudes to work tend to be culturally bound and pervasive. This means that we are all prey to them, whether at work or not. It’s not just about what the boss would think if we began taking a 20-minute post-lunch nap. We all share responsibility if we accept inherited uncritically. Never mind the persuasive evidence about improved productivity and all the rest; it takes a lot more than that to shift a taboo!
Is a siesta good for you?
We are alone in the animal kingdom in attempting to get our sleep needs met in one go. It seems likely (from research done over many years), that our natural sleep/wake rhythm would have involved one long sleep phase at night and a shorter one in the middle of the day. Despite what the post-industrial mindset has led us to believe, respecting Nature’s natural cycle by taking a siesta is definitely good for us.
Time to wake up!
The benefits of a well-timed nap are only in question to closed minds. The list of positive effects doesn’t just influence personal productivity and wellbeing. Among the proven facts about napping are:
In terms of managing workload and responding to demand this is one of the top benefits. According to NASA studies, a brief nap can increase alertness by as much as 100%.
A nap acts like an antidote to sgtress. It allows the body to ‘mop up’ stress hormones and reduce worry and anxiety, leaving you feeling calmer.
A planned nap provides the opportunity for mind and body to do some ‘housekeeping’. physically and mentally, when you take a planned nap. A nap helps you de-stress, make sense of the day so far, and it will boost your energy generally.
Better cardiovascular health
Fatigue raises blood pressure. Taking a regular nap reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Improved skin tone and youthful looks
Tiredness makes you look older. A nap has the opposite effect. That’s why it’s called ‘beauty sleep’.
Mistakes can have dire consequences. A nap at the right moment makes you less prone to errors, improves motor responses, and manual dexterity.
Better decision making
Tired people make mistakes and even have more accidents. These risks are reduced after a nap. Incidentally, several major catastrophes (Chernobyl and Exxon Valdez, for example), and a significant percentage of road accidents have been attributed to human error caused by tiredness.
Your sensory awareness and perception are improved when you are properly rested, as is your ability to pay attention and concentrate. Research has shown that a nap can be as effective as a night’s sleep in restoring perceptual skills.
While loss of sleep lowers resilience and increases irritability and low mood, a napping reverses the effect, and has been shown to lift mood.
Improved night-time sleep
You sleep better when you are already well-rested. A nap during the day helps counter the effects of stress, helps fend off worry, and reduces the likelihood of stress-related anxiety. These are precisely the problems which cause many people to suffer from poor sleep.
How to reap the benefits
These are just some of the advantages of napping. Though taking regular naps might be difficult to fit in with most jobs, learning about the benefits might encourage you to change your ideas around siesta. Life can be a busy business, but a better and more fulfilling life is made possible by doing what comes naturally, taking a nap when you need one.