Ahhh, naps. The mention of the word is like a physical trigger. At the mere thought of taking one, my shoulders sink into a less tense position while a calm feeling spreads throughout my body. Granted, I rarely take naps because I don’t seem to have the time for them, but when I do… it is pure bliss. It’s as if the world melts away for 20-30 minutes, and then I am able to carry out the remainder of my day with more spunk and vigor. My grandfather took a nap on the dining room floor every afternoon after lunch and snored my grandmother and I out of the kitchen and onto the back porch to play cards. The idea of naps got me searching for any positive health benefits or evidence to help me justify inserting naps into my weekly schedule. I found some interesting information, so here it is:

According to the book Take a Nap! Change Your Life by Sara C. Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, research shows that napping has a host of health benefits that include:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Lowering stress
  • Aiding in weight loss
  • Strengthening memory
  • Increasing alertness
  • Boosting creativity
  • Improving perception, stamina, motor skills & accuracy
  • Helping with the decision making process
  • Keeping the appearance of youth longer
  • Enhancing sex life

Wow…that’s quite an excellent list from just a few minutes of shut eye in the afternoon!

If you aren’t sleeping well at night, naps are the perfect way to treat sleep deprivation, according to Mednick. A 20 minute nap can improve your alertness and motor skills and provide more actual rest in the afternoon than tacking on 20 more minutes in the morning. Some folks think napping longer than 20 minutes is not useful and just makes you too groggy, but that is truly not the case. A 30-60 minute nap can help your decision-making skills while a 60-90 minute nap helps solve creative problems and forms new connections in the brain. Research shows a one hour nap provides more restorative effects than a 20 minute nap. It is true that it’s harder to wake from a longer nap since you are in a deeper stage of sleep; however, it is the actual interruption of the sleep cycle that causes any grogginess. The key to avoid grogginess is getting in touch with your sleep cycles and planning to wake up at the end of a cycle rather than in the middle of it. Keep in mind that if you are getting a decent amount of sleep at night, a longer nap could prevent you from falling asleep when it comes to bedtime.

Nevertheless, the point is to take whatever time you do have and nap. It doesn’t matter if it is 5 minutes or 1 hour – a nap is now proven to be good for the brain and overall function! So pull that sleeping mask over those pretty blues, set an alarm and throw on a blanket to nap your way to better health.

Information taken from: 
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps
http://www.saramednick.com/htmls/book/about.htm  

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living