The Art of Snoozing
By Tim Wee
September 5, 2013
The Spanish do it, so do the Germans and the Japanese. But, do you do it too?
We are of course talking about the time-honoured tradition of napping. Did you know that a nap’s duration and timing can have different benefits for you?
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Sleep scientist, David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine states that naps are actually more complicated than they seem. And the art of napping is dependent on what you hope to achieve with those naps.
As we drag our tired corpses to work, it is worth noting that you are not the only one. Research has found that one in three people are being sleep deprived for one reason or another. Hence a nap, no matter how short, can actually improve functionality. But before we get into the thick of things, let’s find out more on the sleep process.
Sleep is broken down into several stages, each lasting 90 to 120 minutes. It can be characterised as non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There are two stages to NREM sleep. Stage one is considered light sleep while stage two is considered intermediate sleep. And finally, there is REM sleep which is the dream stage. Usually awakening from NREM stage two sleep will leave you feeling groggy for pretty much a while!
So, how do you know if you are severely sleep –deprived? Dr Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor with Stanford University, states that a severely sleep-deprived individual will be dreaming even during short naps. But before you rush for you daily cup of coffee, you will want to know that while it will make you feel more wired, you are also prone to more mistakes as it decreases memory performance.
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The Necessity for Nap
As such, assistant psychology professor Dr Sara Mednick recommends a 10 to 20 minutes power nap for those in need of a quick boost of alertness. Dr Mednick says that a nap can reset your body and give you a burst of alertness for improved motor performance. Thus, it satisfies the needs of the corporate worker who needs to get back to work in a pinch.
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In general, most sleep experts are more likely to recommend 10 to 20 minutes naps as the optimal nap timing. It not only packs the most punch, but also is bang for your buck. Dr Leon Lack, psychology professor at Flinders University, conducted a 2006 study which compared the effects of naps ranging from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. The mental sharpness of the 10 minute nappers were clearly visible and remained so for about two hours.
On the other hand, you should invest in a 60 minute nap if you want to maximise your memory processing skills. Intermediate NREM sleep can help boost your mind when memorising facts and figures. However, expect to feel some initial grogginess!
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Finally, a 90 minute nap is ideal if you are looking to learn a new skill as it aids creativity, emotional and procedural memory. So if you are looking to learn how to ride a bike, don’t forget to take a nap first!
If you are tired of combating grogginess, you can drink a cup of coffee prior to napping. The caffeine will not hurt your short snooze and lessen the likelihood of insomnia. Alternatively, you can also try sleeping partially upright to have an easier time waking up. It has been found that individuals do not go into deep sleep when not lying totally flat.
Ideally, you should nap between 1pm and 4pm as any later will interfere with your night time sleep. As the body is naturally wired to be awake in the morning and early evening, you don’t want to confuse your body internal clock by sleeping at inappropriate times. In addition, inappropriate nap times can also contribute to insomnia.
Finally, a daily nap can yield numerous benefits. Besides providing the restorative benefits of a full night sleep, naps can also reduce stress and decrease heart disease. Dr Mednick states that naps can help keep in check the body’s stress hormones, cortisol and insulin. With 40 to 60 percent of adult napping worldwide, maybe it is time that you should snooze your way to better health!
Picture sourced from online.wsj.com