Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy all have one thing in common: daily mid-afternoon naps. Linked with clarity, increased performance, memory, mood and even heart health, naps are an economical (and fun) way to boost mental and physical health. Many companies are now sanctioning office nap times to increase productivity and morale. By following a few simple steps, a blissful catnap can become a happy and healthful habit.
Seeking an excuse to grab a bit of shut-eye? Take a look at the following benefits:
Cardiovascular heath - Greek researchers found that men who took a 30 minute nap at least three times a week lowered their risk of dying from a heart attack by 37 percent. Factors such as smoking, diet and activity level were included in the study.
Healthy weight management - When energy naturally drops in the afternoon, coffee and sugar tend to be the usual stimulants of choice. But afternoon sleepiness is a biological rhythm related to a slight decrease in body temperature -- nature is telling us that it wants us to take a nap. By attempting to ward off drowsiness with caffeine and sugary snacks, biorhythm is disrupted, extra calories are consumed and a rollercoaster ride of energy spikes and crashes begins. This vicious cycle contributes to unwanted extra pounds.
Alertness, improved mood and performance - A mid-afternoon nap can help with depression, dullness and lack of clarity -- all of which can hinder physical and mental performance. As seen in the Harvard Health Letter, a New Zealand study found that "air traffic controllers working the night shift scored better on tests of alertness and performance if they took advantage of a planned nap period of 40 minutes."
According to Sara Mednick, PhD, sleep medicine researcher and author of "Take a nap! Change Your Life," a nap will also:
- Reverse aging
- Strengthen the sex drive
- Accelerate the ability to perform motor tasks
- Enhance how the body utilizes carbs
- Minimize stress hormones
- Alleviate migraines
- Reduce brain chatter before nighttime sleep
A few quick tips to get the most out of a nap:
- Try to keep naps under 45 minutes to avoid grogginess
- Naps are best taken between 1:00 and 3:00 PM
- 30 minute naps improve memory and physical health
- 20 minute naps are revitalizing and help to sharpen the senses
- 10 minute naps help to uplift mood and fend-off afternoon energy slumps
Sleeping on the job
Even large companies are beginning to see the benefit of power naps. Google has 'nap pods' that create a sleeping oasis by blocking sound and light while Intuit Canada provides nap rooms for its employees to enhance overall productivity. A napping spa in Manhattan is used by big names such as Hearst Corporation, Newsweek and Time Warner. Clients enjoy a "cocoon-like" treatment room with adjustable lighting, sound and aromatherapy.
But a fancy cocoon is not necessary to take advantage of napping benefits. Simply get comfortable, close your eyes, set the alarm and bask in this nurturing (and productive) habit.
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