As babies and small children, we probably engaged in napping. Naps gave our parents a break and improved our temperament as the day wore on. Without a nap, we were cranky, whiney, uncooperative and not pleasant to be around. As we grew older our naps became shorter in duration until one day we stopped taking them. As adults, we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of taking naps mostly due to the pressure of our fast paced lifestyles. Most of our days begin very early and last until late into the evening.
At a recent health fair, while talking with people about lifestyle, many complained of poor sleep. Poor sleep is impacting our lives more now than ever before. Much of this is blamed on technology and our ability to be connected 24/7. In the 1940’s, the average person slept 7.9 hours a night. Today we sleep on average 6.8 hours a night. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to less self-control, poor attention span and compromised decision-making. Research shows that those who sleep less than 7-9 hours a night perform poorly when solving complex problems, attempting to stick to a diet or learn a new skill. Are naps the answer to improve our performance and decision making skills?
I have a friend who for years has been taking what he calls a 20-minute power nap. When I first met him and heard about his “need” for a short nap, I thought what could 20 minutes really do? What it doesn’t do is make up for inadequate sleep but it can improve energy and concentration. In a NASA study they found that a 25-minute nap improved judgment by 35%. This has to be why our children seemed to behave better after a nap don’t you think? In a study of people taking a 15-20 minute nap versus drinking a Starbucks grande-size coffee, nappers won out again for alertness and the ability to finish out the day. So how does a short nap improve performance? It has to do with our conscious and unconscious brain.
Our conscious brain is the one that’s always turned on. It is the part that is taking in our environment, controlling our actions and making decisions. Just as a muscle fatigues during exercise, the conscious brain fatigues during the day. A short nap or shuteye session gives our conscious brain a much-needed break. You might say I can’t take a nap no matter how hard I try. Well even the act of lying down and closing your eyes can allow the conscious brain to turn off for a while.
So how much is enough? Most agree that anything under 30 minutes is beneficial. Over 30 minutes we run the risk of waking up during a deep sleep cycle that causes us to feel sluggish and groggy. The prime time of day to squeeze in a power nap is between 1 and 3pm. In my experience, this is the time frame where I struggle to not face plant into my computer monitor at work!
So in conclusion, we definitely need to continue to work on improving our overall sleep habit. Short naps taken during the day can help increase our performance, ability to learn and our decision-making skills. Begin by setting a timer for 20-30 minutes until your body adjusts. Don’t worry if you can’t fall asleep just close your eyes and allow your brain to take a pause from all the stimulus and activity going on in the environment. You will be better able to tackle the rest of your day!
If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.