Everyone knows that after a good night’s rest you feel wide awake and full of spark. Concentration is easy and your mind works efficiently. And the reverse it true too. When you do not have enough sleep, your body becomes inefficient and your mind lethargic. In fact not getting enough sleep raises the body’s stress hormones and is one of the most common forms of stress.
Yet it should be so easy to avoid. But sometimes getting enough sleep is hard to do. Maybe your mind is racing and you cannot switch off long enough to drift off to sleep? Or maybe the pain from entrenched muscle tension is too great to let you sleep soundly? Whatever the reason, if you are having difficulty getting a solid night’s rest, why not try power napping during the day?
There is a lot of evidence supporting the theory that the human brain naturally craves sleep around 2pm. Taking a nap of around shortly after lunch is known to improve mental acuity. But did y0u know that power naps also reduce high blood pressure and reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes?
Research done at the University of California followed the memory and learning progress of 39 adults, only half of whom were allowed to have a 90 minute afternoon nap two hours after being given a learning task. When tested at 6pm, the group who had had the power nap performed statistically better on the recall task compared with the control group who had stayed awake throughout.
The reason is that during sleep, the mind processes and stores information for easy retrieval later. In essence taking a power nap in the early afternoon helps clear your mental in-tray, much like an efficient librarian sorts and files book cards. This process also clears the mind frees up mental space, allowing the mind to take on more tasks, be it remaining vigilant and on the look out for danger, research or solving the next level up on your favourite computer game!
Sleep also allows the body’s stress hormones levels to fall back naturally to a more normal level, aiding relaxation and promoting cellular repair. An early afternoon nap makes learning and remembering easier, so it can also reduce the stress of forgetting often associated with old age.
Napping during the day has proven physiological and psychological benefits, so if you are suffering with insomnia or so stressed you cannot sleep soundly at night, work with your body. Try taking a nap after lunch. You will feel recharged, refreshed and less stressed for doing so.