Saturday afternoons nearly always find me taking a nap. I unashamedly sack out, covered with my favorite soft throw. After an hour, I wake up refreshed, ready to head to the coffee shop and write. I’d happily follow a shorter version of this ritual at work, but this, I fear, would be frowned upon.
Lest you think me lazy, let me explain. Sleep experts say that naps are good for the body. A study of 23,000 Greek adults conducted from 2001 to 2007 showed that those who took regular naps were 37% less likely to die of heart disease. Those who indulged in weekend naps were 17% less likely to do so. (Good thing the research was done before the Greek economy collapsed. I imagine insomnia and illness-producing stress are widespread there these days.)
A nap essentially re-sets some of the body’s functions. We’re released from stress while we sleep, blood pressure drops, and our immune system improves. All these things have the power to improve our long-term health.
Waking life also increases the stress hormone, cortisol. A recent study, however, reported that daytime napping decreases our stress and inflammatory responses, bringing a healthy balance to the strain of daily life.
Those benefits may not be obvious to us, but others are. These are some of the things naps improve:
- Our reaction time, meaning safer driving
- Short-term memory
- Mood (Works for cranky adults as well as for infants.)
Not to mention that naps feel good. We live hectic lives, and need breaks. A comfy bed, a quiet room, a cozy throw. . . lovely. And, if you’re awakened at 5:30 on Sunday morning by the operatic demands of a hungry cat, as I often am, knowing you can nap later makes you less inclined to want to wring your furry friend’s neck.
While an hour is my preferred length of time to sleep, other people do well with 15 or 20 minutes (which could be accomplished under a desk in dire circumstances).
There are reasons that people don’t nap. Friends have told me it makes them groggy for the rest of the day. This occasionally happens to me, too, mostly when I’m really tired. Others, like my cousin, figure we’ll sleep when we’re dead. But I believe that a little extra sleep leads to longer life, perhaps delaying The Big Sleep by a year or two.
So do yourself a favor and give napping another try. Find a spot and a position that works for you every time, and go for it. Bedroom or couch, hammock or lawn chair–whatever floats your boat.
All this talk of naps has made me sleepy. Yawn. I’m going to go get horizontal. See you in an hour.