Tuesday was National Napping Day, an unofficial yet invaluable holiday that follows the spring daylight savings weekend that costs us one hour of precious sleep. So if you need a pick-me-up sometime this week, go ahead and nap.
If you don’t have time for an hour-long nap, a power nap will do just as well; even 20 minutes of daytime rest will provide you with the wondrous health benefits of napping. Here are six good reasons to take a nap:
1. Increases Alertness
Although you may feel groggy in the minutes immediately following an afternoon siesta, once you fully reawaken you’ll experience a boost of energy. NASA has studied the effects of napping on pilots and found that those who took a 40-minute nap were more alert than pilots who did not nap. Even just a 20-minute rest has been demonstrated to rejuvenate shift workers, and some people report feeling more alert after just ten minutes of shuteye.
2. Improves Memory & Learning
The reason that longer naps tend to provide more brain benefits is that the deep state of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage of sleep that has been linked with cognitive processes. A nap that lasts longer than an hour or 90 minutes may leave you feeling somewhat groggy after you wake, but it’s worth it to receive the more intense benefit to your brainpower. fMRI scans have proven that brain activity remains higher all day in people who nap than in people who don’t take a rest.
3. Boosts Creativity
Researchers have discovered that a burst of activity sometimes occurs in the right hemisphere—the side of the brain linked to creativity—after napping. Earlier studies have also found that long naps where the sleeper cycled through REM sleep resulted in better performance on creative word problems.
4. Promotes Productivity
Most experts agree that a bit of afternoon shuteye is not a sign of laziness, and can actually increase output and productivity in the workplace. A power nap is a great tool to recharge on the job and may be more effective at doing so than coffee, according to reseachers. Unfortunately, most companies frown upon employees who nap on the job.
5. Raises Your Spirits
That crankiness experienced by toddlers who miss out on naptime is not necessarily something adults grow out of; rather, we’ve found new ways to deal with it besides throwing a tantrum. But sleepiness does make many people grouchy, and a quick nap is a proven way to boost your mood.
6. Reduces Stress
One of the reasons napping can improve your mood is that it is connected with relaxation and meditation. If you think of a nap as a mini-vacation, as is suggested by The National Sleep Foundation, you can enjoy the indulgence of allowing yourself to shut your eyes and rest for a few minutes. Even if you can’t pass out, just resting in a comfortable position can be just as relaxing an actual nap.