Are you getting enough sleep? If not, a power nap might be just what the doctor ordered. Nutrition expert, Yuri Elkaim, has the details.
A full night’s sleep has a wide range of health benefits, but what if you’re not able to get enough shut-eye at night? Lack of sleep has far-reaching consequences- it contributes to decreased productivity at work, industrial and vehicular accidents, and chronic health issues including diabetes, heart disease, and depression. A short power nap has the ability to reverse some of the damage from a poor night’s rest. In fact, power napping offers so many health benefits, it’s worth looking at the specifics. Chances are, you’ll feel far better about adding a siesta to the middle of your afternoons–it may be one of the best things you give yourself each day.
Surprising Health Benefits of Power Napping
1.Napping relieves stress and bolsters the immune system
Take a break from your busy day and sneak in a power nap to reduce your stress levels. A study following 11 healthy men found that limited sleep increased their norepinephrine levels 2 ½ fold. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone involved in the fight or flight response, and it increases heart rate and triggers the release of glucose from energy stores. After participants were allowed a 30 minute nap, norepinephrine was restored to normal levels. The study also looked at levels of interleukin-6, which are proteins with antiviral properties. Following a night of 2 hours of sleep, interleukin-6 levels decreased. Following a 30 minute nap, interleukin-6 levels returned to normal.
2. Napping lifts spirits and increases feelings of well-being
Lack of sleep and crankiness go hand-in-hand. Testosterone is thought of as a male hormone, but did you know it may play a role in the sleep/well-being cycle for both sexes? One study restricted sleep in participants to 5 hours a night for one week. Testosterone levels were measured in these young men after this period, and found that testosterone levels were significantly decreased, about the same amount as aging 10-15 years. Highest levels of testosterone were measured after sleeping 10 hours a night.
3. Napping reduces risk of heart disease
Lack of sleep can pose serious consequences for those with high blood pressure. A study following 234 people with high blood pressure found that those who slept 6 or less hours per night were twice as likely to have resistant hypertension. Resistant hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHG or higher after taking 3 or more medications intended to lower blood pressure. One study found that just expecting an afternoon nap can lower blood pressure.
4. Napping decreases risk of many diseases
Sleep loss is associated with an increased risk for many chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. One study looked at sleep deprivation at the cellular level, and found that lack of sleep causes damage to cells, in particular the liver, lung, and small intestine. The good news is that recovery sleep, in the form of a nap, restores cell damage and further decreases cell injury.
5. Napping increases bone health
Believe it or not, napping helps your bones as much as it helps your brain. Research indicates that lack of sleep can impact bone health. As we sleep, bones repair themselves. If we miss out on necessary sleep, bone density decreases, which may lead to osteoporosis.
6. Napping boosts productivity
Want to improve your work output? Those who are sleep deprived can’t sustain productivity without a power nap. Mednick, a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, found that naps enhance productivity even in subjects who get adequate sleep at night.
7. Napping improves memory and learning
A NASA study found that naps improve memory. Ninety-one study participants spent 10 days in a laboratory setting, with a sleep schedule ranging from 4 to 8 hours, including daily naps. Researchers found that naps improved working memory, which is critical for performing complex tasks.
How to Power Nap
Ready to add these incredible benefits to your daily routine? There is a fairly specific science to taking the perfect power nap. Daniel Tenner, author of “How I Mastered the Power Nap” shares one important consideration:
“Napping is not sleeping. To get the benefit of a refreshing power nap, you don’t need to fall asleep. It’s enough to relax yourself and let your thoughts drift off, even while remaining mostly awake. If you can do this properly (it does take some practice), you can power nap even if you find it impossible to fall asleep quickly.” (Daniel Tenner, Lifehacker)
The purpose of power napping is not to fall asleep. Rather, it’s to revive the brain, offering a quick refresh and boost of alertness. 10-20 minutes is the optimal nap length–your body won’t have time to go into a sleep cycle, so it will be easy to wake up and get moving again. Some science has even shown that a super quick 6 minute nap may even be enough time to offer notable benefits. The most important consideration is to keep power naps under 30 minutes. It’s much harder to wake and revive at that point.
- CONSIDER THIS: If you dream during your power nap, it may be a sign of sleep deprivation. Napping offers many benefits, but can’t make up for a significant lack of quality sleep. So, take note and head to bed early if your body needs more than a power nap can give.
The Best Time to Nap
Nodding off whenever you please isn’t necessarily optimal. The best time for a nap is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., right after lunch. If you work at home, it’s a no brainer to hop in bed or hit the couch for a 20 minute power nap.
The Best Way to Power Nap
For a quick boost of alertness, a 20 minute power nap is all you need. Most experts recommend sleeping slightly upright–it helps you avoid a deep sleep, which can be harder to awake from. Here are two other expert ideas on the fitting a perfect power nap into your day:
- Where to Nap- If you work at an office, you may need to get creative about your napping options. Most people get an hour off for lunch, so after you eat, find your ideal spot and set the alarm on your phone. If you have your own office, shut the door and either rest your head on your desk or bring a mat and blanket for the floor. If you don’t have your own office, try an empty conference room or go out to your car and put up a privacy screen.
- How to Nap- To take a proper power nap, you’ll need a timer or an app. Set a timer on your smartphone for 21 minutes. You do not want to go over the 20 minute mark, but I’ve found that adding an extra minute allows you time to set up, get situated and get comfortable. If you find it hard to settle your mind, apps like Pzizz make it easy to train your brain into the new habit, with music and
3 More Ways to Boost Your Health with Sleep
If you’re interested in taking your health to the next level, it may be as simple as getting more sleep. Tune into the three videos below to discover how your napping and sleeping habits may be keeping you from reaching your weight loss goals–and what to do about it. The science may surprise you:
- Is Sleep Deprivation Making You Fat?
Does sleep impact weight loss? Tons of research shows a very strong relationship between sleep and weight loss and I’ll share some of these findings with you in this video.
- Sleep Tips for Health
If you’ve got trouble sleeping then you’ll learn several tips to help you sleep better. You’ll also learn about the health and weight loss benefits.
- How to Sleep for Energy
Discover the simple sleeping secret to having more energy throughout the day.
This article originally appeared at yurielkaim.com
Photo credit: Flickr/ArisSanchez
Yuri Elkaim is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and fitness expert on a mission is to empower everyday men and women with proper nutrition and health wisdom so they can take better control of their own health. His first published book, The All Day Energy Diet, became an instant New York Times Bestseller. Yuri is also a former professional soccer who, for 7 seasons, acted as the strength & conditioning/nutrition coach for the nationally ranked men’s soccer program at the University of Toronto. He has been featured in the Huffington Post, , US News & World Report, and many other outlets.