By Deborah Serani, Psy.D.
I am the Queen of napping. I can nap anywhere, anytime.
It’s one of my many talents.
Most often, at around 2:30 everyday, I am at rest. I am Semi-conscious, not sound asleep but not fully awake. I can ease out of this wonderful place without a jarring effect. And when I emerge from my catnap, some 20 minutes later, I feel so good.
The benefits of napping have been well documented. Research has shown that a nap can promote physical well-being, improve mood and memory, sharpen senses and revitalize a person. The neurons in brain functioning get to rest and recuperate from the day’s stress. Intellectual performance improves from the boost a midday nap provides and accuracy in performance increases too. MRI’s of nappers show that brain activity stays high throughout the day with a nap. Without one, it declines as the day wears on.
Research also says that taking a nap of 30 minutes a day is better than sleeping 30 minutes later in the morning. And from another psychological perspective, falling into a light sleep can feel meditative (like my semi-conscious experience). As you nap, the dreams and streams of thoughts you experience may offer insights you may not be able to grasp at night when you are in a deep sleep.
When you sleep under normal circumstances, your brain cycles through several different stages of Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma sleep waves. You drift from one stage of sleep to another – from light sleep to deeper sleep to REM sleep to wakefulness and so on. Delta and Theta sleep, also known as Sleep I and Sleep II stages, are light stages of sleep. So, the key to napping is to not fall into the deeper stages of sleep. That is why a 15 to 30 minute nap is recommended. Napping more than that, and you’ll find yourself waking up cranky or groggy.
The good old catnap has new names, like “The Power Nap”, “Powernapping” and “Metronapping”. In fact, there is an emerging trend where science fiction-like pods and snoozing suites are popping up in workplaces, universities, and malls. Take a look here and here
Some famous self-proclaimed nappers include Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci , Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Johannes Brahms, John D. Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gene Autry, Nikola Tesla, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Salvador Dali.
So, science and psychology say we should embrace the siesta – and not view the snoozing in the middle of the day as being lazy. Napping is not just for the young and the old. It can be a good thing for us all.
Now excuse me, while I kiss the sky.
Hayahsi, M.; Motoyoshi, N.; Hori, T. (2005). Recuperative power of a short daytime nap with or without stage 2 sleep .Sleep, 1;28(7):829-36.
Mednick, S.l Nakayam, K.; Stockgold, R. (2003). Sleep-dependent learning: A nap is as good as a night. Neuroscience, 6(7): 697-698.
Mednick, S. & Stickgold,R. (2002). The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration. Nature Neuroscience. 5 (7): 677-681
The Art of Napping