Does it seem a little odd that taking a nap can help you sleep better at night?
It can – when it's structured right. Different cultures around the world use a daily nap as part of their normal day. It's normal to take a short nap.
Lots of reasons caused this habit to form, and it's exceptionally beneficial to your health.
Is Napping Right For You?
First, not everyone needs a daytime nap. Some people feel energized and ready to go all day until they reach the nighttime. If you don't feel like you need a nap, you probably shouldn't take one.
But, what if you do feel like you need a nap during the afternoon?
The first thing you should look at is if you genuinely do need a little bit extra sleep or if you're tiredness is the result of a lifestyle habit easily changed.
The first habit that causes afternoon fatigue is caffeine. Many people have coffee in the morning. But, the caffeine buzz that you got you going in the morning wears off about two in the afternoon. That can make you feel tired as the artificial stimulation wears off. To solve this, you can either skip the caffeine or drink more to keep you awake. However, drinking more could cause other problems.
Or, it could be a result of what you ate for lunch. If you had a carbohydrate-rich lunch, the sugar (carbs) rush you got from it wears off about two to three hours later, right in the middle of the afternoon. Simply changing to a lower carbohydrate / higher fat and protein lunch can give you more energy and maybe help you lose a little bit of weight.
Once you look at the other lifestyle factors, you can see if a nap will help you. Let's take a look at what it can do for you.
What Type Of Nap Is Best For Your Body?
Napping is a short period of sleep. It's a way for your brain to rest and take time to reset.
Typically, this happens in about 20 minutes.
If you sleep longer than that, your brain starts shifting from rest to actual sleep. This starts putting you into deeper and slower brain waves, triggering REM cycles, and slowing your heart, digestion, and breathing.
It also changes your hormone production. Your body will start producing melatonin, which helps you sleep. It starts suppressing your daytime hormones such as ghrelin, cortisol, and endorphins.
When you try and pull yourself out of this kind of sleep, it can be tough. Your body will want to stay asleep, finishing the cycle out. That's why taking a long nap can leave you feeling more tired.
And, even though you feel more tired, you can't get to sleep later. With your hormone cycle thrown off, you don't produce the correct type of hormones to sleep (melatonin) when it comes to your actual bedtime.
But, a 20-minute nap doesn't do this.
What A Short Nap Does For Your Brain!
So, now that you only take a 20-minute nap, which some people call a power nap, let's see what it does for you.
Closing your eyes and resting for 20 minutes allows your mind to let go of the work and stress of the past couple of hours. If you have a busy job or a stressful one, this can give your mind a chance to refresh itself and get ready for the rest of the day.
A 20-minute nap is very effective at reducing cortisol in your system. By decreasing this hormone, your nap can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
Some studies have shown that this short nap can help reduce anxiety and depression in the long run. Primarily, it helps balance the serotonin and dopamine in the brain that can give you a boost and a better outlook on life.
It may also help reduce dementia and Alzheimer's later in life.
How To Get In A Short Nap
It's hard trying to get in a 20-minute nap when you work in an office. You don't have an extra 20 minutes to put your head down and just nap. Most people have 30 minutes for lunch. And between cooking it, eating it, and getting cleaned up, that takes up almost the entire time.
Fortunately, you don't need a full 20 minutes. Even closing your eyes for 5 minutes gives some benefit.
Leaning back in the chair and putting your head on your desk for 5 minutes can give you better clarity and more peace than looking at social media. The five minutes might not make you feel fully awake in the long run, but it can benefit your health more than trying to power through the whole day.
If you give napping a try, let us know. Share this on Twitter and Pinterest to spread the word!