Guilty about taking daytime naps? Don’t be, it’s good for you! Sleep is important for good health – it improves your immune function and prevents the risk of a range of disorders. You must know this already. While at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night is vital, in case you miss the mark, a nap during the daytime (usually lasting for 15-90 minutes) can also benefit you a great deal. It improves the functioning of your brain ranging from focus, memory to creativity.
Is it normal to nap in the afternoon?
Napping in the afternoon is completely normal. Many times, it happens so that you are unable to get a good night’s sleep and feel drowsy the next morning. You may feel the need to rejuvenate yourself. Morning naps are great in this regard. The longer the nap, the more you will feel energized.
Here is why you feel better after a nap –
• A brief nap brings down your stress levels
• Boosts your energy levels
• Relaxes the body
• Lifts up your mood
• Improves performance and alertness
Taking a daytime nap occasionally is fine. However, napping every day may not be too good for you. It may have adverse effects on your health and sleep pattern, such as sleep inertia and insomnia. People, who make sleeping during the day a habit, often, tend to become disoriented and groggy after waking up. One of the most commonly asked questions is – ‘Do you gain weight if you sleep in the afternoon?’ The answer to this question is no. Napping in the afternoon does not necessarily make you gain weight. In fact, it is the other way around. Studies report that people who nap in the afternoon observe a lower incidence of obesity than those who do not. Afternoon naps help lower the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Nevertheless, you should not take a nap immediately after having lunch. Your body needs time to digest the food you eat, and so it is best to lie down at least an hour after you have your meal.
Is it better to nap or sleep longer at night?
While a short nap of about half an hour does improve alertness, mood and performance, it does not necessarily make up for poor quality or inadequate sleep during the night. Therefore, besides taking short naps throughout the day, it is imperative that you get eight hours of sleep at night. The link between Daytime Naps and Better Decision Making, Health experts now state that short naps may help you make better decisions in life. Scientists, with the help of new-age technologies, are now examining where learning occurs in the brain, and how inadequate sleep impedes with the brain’s neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to adapt and respond to the stimuli received from the surroundings. Scientists have located specific memories and build them up with the help of auditory cues, while the volunteers for the study are asleep.
Now, a new intriguing study has put all its focus on how short naps affect your brain processes unconscious information, which we are consciously not aware of. The study also examines the impact of naps on one’s reaction time and conscious behaviour.
Volunteers were recruited for the study and each was assigned two tasks. The first one referred to as the ‘masked prime task’ where the researchers present information to the volunteers for a very brief duration so that they get little time to consciously register the information. In the second task (control task), the volunteers were asked to respond when shown a blue or red square on the screen.
After this, the volunteers took a nap for 90 minutes or stayed awake, and then repeated the same task. The researchers assessed their brain activity prior to and after the nap with the help of an electroencephalogram.
The findings of the study were remarkable. It concluded that naps did not increase the speed of processing information in the control task, but the effects were just the opposite in the masked prime task. This suggests, that daytime naps particularly help you process information that you acquire consciously. Even sleeping for a brief span of time may aid you in processing information, improve your reaction time, and potentially influence one’s behaviour when awake. These further strengthen the idea that the information we perceive in a conscious state of mind gets processed while we are asleep, and that sleep helps in decision making when we are awake.
Therefore, the next time you feel like taking a break in between your work, do not hesitate. Even a 10-15 minute nap can leave you energized for the rest of the day and you might just be able to make some of the best decisions of your life!