A power nap isn’t something new or a fad that’s going to pass away. Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison are all known to have valued a quick 40 winks. Here are some of the amazing benefits of a power nap.
The Science behind a Power Nap
Research has proven that a good 40 winks increases alertness, boosts creativity and reduces stress. It improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy. And can help you make better decisions, keep you looking younger and aids in weight loss. It can also reduce the risk of heart attack, elevates your mood, and strengthens memory.
When reviewing the above list, one could easily be reading the effects of some miracle drug rather than a simple nap. But, according to the US National Sleep Foundation, it’s true. A power nap, between 20 and 30 minutes, improves productivity and physical and mental health. It’s, therefore, no surprise that Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were all fond of a good nap.
5 Benefits of an Afternoon Siesta
1. Improved Learning
The University of California Berkeley conducted a sleep study with the aid of 39 healthy young adults. Participants were divided into two groups – nap and no-nap. At noon, all 39 were subjected to a tough learning task. It was intended to tax the hippocampus, a region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Both groups showed similar levels of performance.
At 2 pm, the nap group took a siesta while the no-nap group stayed awake. At 6 pm, on the same day, participants performed a new round of learning exercises. Those who went without a nap showed a decrease in learning ability. While, in contrast, those that napped performed considerably better. And even showed an increase in their actual capacity to learn.
These findings support the researchers’ hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage. Thereby making room for new information. The study’s lead, psychology professor Matthew Walker also notes that: “Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap.”
2. Enhanced Creativity
If you’re looking to improve your creativity, treat yourself to a longer nap rather than a quick doze. The reason is that prolonged sleep allows a person to enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is deep sleep and it’s here that most dreaming occurs.
In another California-based study, researchers gave participants a number of creative problems to think over during the course of a day. Half of the group was instructed to stay awake throughout the day, while the other half was encouraged to sleep. At the end of the day, those that napped long enough to enter REM sleep solved problems 40% better than those that didn’t sleep. Accordingly, researchers concluded that REM sleep increases both alertness and attention. As well as allowing the brain to work on creative problems posed prior to sleep.
3. Greater Performance
Did you know that even NASA encourages an afternoon nap? A growing body of research clearly illustrates that naps improve performance, alertness, concentration, and judgment. All attributes required when planning a visit to the moon. When conducting studies on astronauts, NASA scientists discovered that a 25-minute snooze improved judgment by 35% and vigilance by 16%.
All this is well and good for NASA, but how does napping fare when compared to grabbing a cup of coffee? In another study, researchers compared the results of a nap with 150mg of caffeine (roughly a Starbucks grande-size coffee). They found that individuals who took a nap awoke with more alertness. Then went on to perform better during the remainder of the day than those who just drank their favourite coffee.
4. Improved Health
Sleep deprivation leads to an excess of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is necessary when dealing with fight-or-flight responses. But too much cortisol can result in glucose intolerance and abdominal fat. It also weakens the muscular and immune systems, and stunts memory and learning. As well as decreased levels of growth hormone and testosterone in our bodies. These effects can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
The antidote to cortisol, a growth hormone, is released when you sleep. Growth hormone improves your immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, and aids in muscle repair and weight loss. Napping allows the body to fight excess cortisol. Thereby, providing an opportunity for your brain to rest and your body to heal.
The above is evident when looking at a study done with Greek people, a nap-loving nation. Researchers looked at those who had a 30-minute nap at least three times a week. They discovered they had 37% less risk of dying from a heart-related condition. And among working men, their risk of death was reduced by 64%.
5. A Mood Boost
When it comes to neurotransmitters, serotonin is worth its weight in gold. It regulates our mood, sleep, and appetite. It produces a feeling of contentment and well-being. When our bodies are stressed, we not only use higher levels of serotonin but the production of more is severely restricted. This can lead to anxiety, irritability and depression as well as feeling overwhelmed and easily distracted.
Dr Sara Mednick is a leading authority on the study of the nap and the author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. She states that: “Napping bathes your brain in serotonin, reversing those effects and creating a more positive outlook,”
Learn More About the Brain
The human brain is a fascinating device. To learn more about the inner workings of the mind, study a course in psychology at SACAP. Programmes such as the Bachelor of Psychology and the Diploma in Counselling and Communication Skills pave the way for a career in psychology. As well as provide invaluable skills that can be harnessed in other career paths. For more information, enquire now.