I read an article the other day in a health and fitness magazine in which the author bemoaned the need for a nap. She complained that her energy levels were so low in the mid-afternoon that she had to resort to a nap. Hmm… My energy levels are great, and I love to take naps. Napping is a time-honored tradition in many, many cultures. Why not ours?
We napped as kindergarteners, why not now? According to the National Sleep Foundation 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers (sleeping in many phases). My dog is napping at my feet right now. Humans, as monophasic sleepers (sleeping just once a day), are in the minority. It is not clear that as a species, we have always been this way, but we seem to be this way now, though some of us, including Margaret Thatcher, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and me function better in the afternoons after a short nap.
The mid-afternoon energy dip is natural. It’s human nature. That “2:30 slump” is part of the body’s natural sleep cycle. Mid-afternoon, especially after you’ve been sitting at your desk for several hours, your body temperature lowers causing the brain to release melatonin, the body’s natural snooze chemical. The same body temp/melatonin cycle happens at bedtime, as you slow things down for the night.
Siesta in Spanish, Riposo in Italian, to sleep perchance to snore…The nap is a luxury. Think of it as a little restorative vacation in the middle of your day. A short nap can improve brain function, increase focus. National Sleep Foundation describes the following benefits of the catnap:
1. Recharge. “Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.”
2. Reduce Stress. “Napping has psychological benefits… It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.” (https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping/page/0/1 )
The Art of Manliness offers these benefits in “The Power of the Nap”:
3. Improves learning and working memory. “Naps improve your working memory. This type of memory is involved in working on complex tasks where you have to pay attention to one thing while holding a bunch of other things in your memory. Napping also improves your memory retention…”
4. Prevents burnout and reverses information overload. “Studies have shown that putting in extra hours without rest dramatically reduces your productivity. It would be better to take a 30-minute nap and return to your work refreshed.”
5. Heightens your senses and creativity. “Napping can improve your sensory perception as effectively as a night of sleep… Napping also improves your creativity by both loosening up the web of ideas in your head and fusing disparate insights together.”
6. Improves health. “Sleep deprivation leads to an excess of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, helps us deal with fight or flight responses. But excess cortisol increases glucose intolerance and abdominal fat, weakens the muscular and immune systems, stymies memory and learning, and decreases levels of growth hormone and testosterone in our bodies. These deleterious effects can lead to diabetes and heart disease.” (https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/unleash-the-power-of-the-nap/)
According to Ovid: “There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled.”
Shakespeare describes it best:
“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
Ahhh. It’s about that time…