We could all use more sleep, and there’s a reason Carte Blanche recently labelled us ‘the sleepless generation’.
One of the highlights of the weekend, if you manage to clear your schedule, is the Sunday couch nap.
Couch naps are different from bed naps. They happen spontaneously, last the perfect amount of time, and there’s something about them that just hits the spot.
Also, if you’ve found that you’re an all-round better person on days when you’ve managed to get a nap in, there might be something to that, according to a new study from researchers at the Asklepieion General Hospital in Greece.
The Telegraph reports that the study looked at the sleeping habits of 212 people and found that those who took a nap in the afternoon experienced a fall in blood pressure.
The study prompts the fascinating theory that people who live in southern Mediterranean countries, where siestas are commonplace, have a longer life expectancy not because of their diet but because of their habit of sleeping in the middle of the day.
On which note, Japan proves an interesting case study, because the country with the world’s longest life expectancy also regularly features at the bottom of world sleep tables: the Japanese get an average of just 6 hours and 35 minutes a night. However, Japan is also known for its culture of napping – especially at work, where the practice even has its own name: inemuri.
Evidence seems to suggest that an afternoon nap is a good thing, and here are six reasons to put your head down on your desk immediately:
Napping Keeps You Focused
Both Margaret Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill slept just four hours a night but insisted on daily naps.
In addition, the great Albert Einstein also found that regular naps helped him stay focused.
Napping Refreshes You
Studies show that a post-lunch power nap can power up your brain.
Psychologists at Harvard University tested the visual learning ability of volunteers by asking them to watch and then recall the position of bars on a computer screen, at different times of day. Tests were carried out at 9am and 7pm, and again at 9am the following day.
The subjects who were not allowed to sleep during the day performed worse in the evening, whereas those who took a 60- to 90-minute sleep during the day improved in the evening.
If you really want to take it to the next level, you could even settle in for a ‘nappuccino’.
Napping Boosts Creativity And Productivity
Show this to your boss.
Vincent Walsh, professor of human brain research at University College London, said in 2014 that people have become ‘obsessed’ with sleeping only during the night. He claims that humans have only adopted long night time sleep patterns since the industrial revolution and believes it may be damaging our ability to think creatively. The answer is a 30-90 minute nap, of course.
“It’s best to give your brain downtime. I have a nap every afternoon,” said Prof Walsh. “If we want people to be more creative we need people to be able to do less. Companies should allow naps in the afternoon. They should get rid of the habit of clocking in and clocking out.
“Let people come in when they want. If they want to work through the night, let them.”
I wish you luck in implementing the nap into your workday.
Napping Makes You Happy
Yeah, it does. Very happy. Here’s why:
Toddlers who are denied regular afternoon naps grow up into grumpier and moodier adults, a study indicates.
US researchers found that toddlers who miss just one daytime nap become more anxious and less interested in the world around them.
The mid-morning nap of my pre-school days remains one of my fondest memories.
Napping Reduces Stress
Sleep, in general, is good for you.
A report from the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians said that a sleep can reduce stress, help cardiovascular functions, and improve alertness and memory,
However, the researchers said that it is only beneficial if it forms part of the regular daily routine rather than a one off. A nap is part of the natural cycle of the body and missing it could be worse for one’s health than skipping a meal, their findings showed.
The best time to take a siesta is after lunch, on a couch or in an armchair, according to the report.
I knew there was something special about that couch nap.
Napping Reduces Mistakes
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) maintains that naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.
A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 per cent and alertness 100 per cent.
That sounds like peak productivity to me.