Most people consider taking naps a sign of laziness, but napping’s bad reputation is finally starting to turn around. There’s a good reason for it – according to recent studies, napping has nothing to do with laziness, and can actually improve our energy levels and health.
Humans sleep once a day unlike other mammals. Scientists are not exactly sure why we’re monophasic. Furthermore, sleeping just once overnight is not great for our health, so maybe we should revert to taking naps throughout the day. Certain industry giants (Google, Microsoft) certainly encourage their employees to take short naps, and considering their success, they’re probably right to do so.
As a matter of fact, scientific studies have shown that naps can boost our brain and resolve t sleep deprivation. They can improve our perceptual and statistical learning and help us find creative ways to solve a problem. They also improve our logical reasoning, reaction times, symbol recognition and math skills as well. When all is said and done, naps are great for our overall health.
Health benefits of short naps
According to a Greek study, males who take afternoon naps 3 times per week have almost 40% lower risk of death caused by some kind of heart problem. Greeks and other nationalities have a customary nap after lunch, and they have significantly lower risk of heart attack and stroke than the rest of the world. In UK and the USA for example, naps are considered a sign of laziness, and heart attack and stroke are at the top of the list of causes of death.
Studies have shown that naps can actually improve our alertness, memory and cognitive performance while relaxing our mind and relieving stress. In 1995, NASA investigated if naps actually improve our brain performance. The study was conducted on 747 pilots which were allowed to take up to 40-minute naps. They napped for 25.5 minutes per day, and the results showed that they had 16% median reaction improvements and 34% reduction in lapses. A later (2008) follow-up study showed that naps can actually improve our perceptual learning, motor skills and verbal memory as well.
Does the length matter?
Yes, it does. The length of the nap is related to certain cognitive improvements. For example, 20-minute naps can improve your alertness and work better than coffee. 30-minute naps will boost your creativity and memory, while hour-long naps improve the memory area of the brain responsible for alphabet and directions.
The longest naps last for an hour and a half, and completely restart your brain. They reach the REM stage of sleep, which can improve your problem-solving skills.