A siesta – an afternoon nap – is ingrained in Indian culture. Ask any resident of Pune, where napping between 2 and 4 pm is customary. In Kolkata, the streets become deserted in the afternoon as many Bengalis step away for a little shut-eye. In Goa, susegad (Konkani for siesta) is a way of life. Businesses close and silence descends as people slip away to rest.
However, an afternoon nap is quickly becoming a thing of the past in many other parts of the world, including in the fast-paced metropolitan cities of India.
Still, most Indians feel that a nap can improve their productivity. They are right. Napping promises many benefits for your health, cognitive abilities, and overall performance.
THE JOYS OF NAPPING
Naps promote better memory consolidation to regular nappers — a process by which your brain converts information into long-term memory. This helps you remember information after a long time with ease and accuracy.
Studies also show that a nap can help you retain information better after learning, with better memory recall after a nap.
A quick nap reduces sleepiness and leaves you more alert. It gives your brain a chance to recover and reduces the levels of adenosine — a neurotransmitter that renders you sleepy in the afternoon. In fact, the CDC recommends emergency responders take naps to recover from fatigue and restore alertness.
Of course, increased sleepiness during the day can also be a sign of poor sleep at night, which you need to address with good sleep habits.
Enhances Learning Skills
If you are learning a new skill, studying, or taking in new information at work, then a nap can help. Not only does it improve your memory and focus, but various studies show that a brief period of slumber can enhance your capacity to learn.
One way to improve daytime crankiness and irritability caused by a poor night’s sleep is to take a nap. Poor sleep results in an imbalance in the neuroendocrine system. A quick nap will restore this balance, making you feel better.
Even in well-rested people, a daytime nap can improve mood, boost positivity, and increase tolerance for frustration.
Improves Problem-Solving Skills
A boost to your brain’s cognitive abilities with a daytime nap is enough to improve your creative problem-solving skills.
Studies show that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep enhances your ability to connect unassociated information, which improves problem-solving and logical reasoning. This helps you find solutions to problems that have been troubling you for a while.
Good for Heart Health
While the exact reason is not clear, a daytime nap taken once or twice a week lowers the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to a study. Regular napping is also linked to a lower risk of heart problems. A Greek study of 23,000 participants found siesta can lower the risk of dying from heart disease by 37 percent.
It is important to keeps naps to less an hour. Anything longer than 60 minutes may put your heart at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lowers Blood Pressure
An afternoon snooze appears to lower blood pressure by 3 to 5mm HG, which is similar to the drop you experience when you make lifestyle changes such as reducing salt and alcohol intake. Such a drop is significant for your heart health and can lower your risk of a heart attack.
With all the benefits a power nap offers for your cognitive abilities, it’s no wonder that you experience a boost in your productivity after a nap.
You are more focused and alert, your brain has rested, your ability to recall information is much better, and your learning capabilities are enhanced — all of which makes you highly productive.
After reading about all these benefits, you are probably thinking of taking a quick snooze. But not all naps are beneficial. There are a few things you need to keep in mind to nap the smarter way.
- Take a quick nap to rest but not to catch up on sleep.
- Nap between 1 pm and 3 pm. If you try to nap earlier, your body will not be ready. Taking a nap later than 3 pm will disrupt your sleep at night.
- For most people, a power nap of about 20-30 minutes is enough to give them the extra boost of energy. Studies show that a nap of 10 minutes produces the best results with no grogginess (sleep inertia) on waking up. A nap longer than 30 minutes will leave you groggy for an hour after waking.
- While you want to be comfortable while taking a nap, being too comfortable can make you sleep longer. Take a nap on the couch or a cozy chair rather than on your bed.