The Science of Naps: This is Why They Are So Good For You

There’s a bit of irony that surrounds the concept of taking naps. When we’re kids, we’re made to do it even if we don’t want to. Then when we’re older we long for them, but can’t always find the time. The combination of the stress of working and raising children means that we’re busy, and while we need naps more, we aren’t getting them. This is unfortunate, as science is finding more and more that naps are necessary.

o-LAZY-HIGH-SCHOOL-STUDENT-facebookHumans are one of only 15% of mammalian species whose sleep periods consist of one large block of time (monophasic). The rest snag shorter periods of sleep throughout the day (polyphasic).

Science is not clear as to whether or not this is humans’ natural way of sleeping. However, what is known is that we’re not getting enough of it. What’s more is that insufficient sleep leads to industrial disasters, vehicle crashes, occupational errors, etc. This is where the science of napping comes into play.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, napping can restore alertness, reduce accidents, and enhance performance. Catching a few winks also has psychological benefits, and has even been prescribed as a treatment for narcolepsy.

solid dream sleeping conditionsIn fact, this 1995 NASA study looked at the effects of napping on commercial airline pilots. What they found was that those who got some extra shuteye “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses compared to the No-Rest Group.”

So, if you’re planning on making some more room for naps in your life, you have to be careful. Naps are commonly subdivided into four groups, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. In order to figure out what type of sleep you are lacking, here are those four types:

  • “Power nap” (10-20 minutes) – This kind of nap is best for a lift in alertness and energy. Rarely will you go into REM sleep, and as such you will wake up easily and feel refreshed.
  • “Siesta” (30-45 minutes) – This is a longer nap that will still allow you to spring back into action pretty quickly if needed. You may feel a little ‘sleep inertia,’ grogginess upon waking, but restorative benefits are enhanced.
  • sleeping breathing technique“Slow Wave” (60-90 minutes) – On average, Americans have about an hour and a half sleep deficit. This nap might be for you, but it may be hard to wake up, and you will feel quite a bit of sleep inertia. It may take a half hour or more to get over the grogginess.
  • “REM” (90 minutes or more) – Once you’ve gotten past a half hour, you’re in dreamland and have achieved a full cycle of sleep. Creativity may be enhanced, or perhaps you’re just making up for some insomnia. Regardless, the fact that you’ve slept for a full cycle, sleep inertia will be greatly reduced.

Do you get enough sleep? How do you find time for naps?

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