By Cory Sekine-Pettite
Perhaps you haven’t heard the great news: Naps are the new coffee break. Under this “new normal” in which we’re all living — where we all are more stressed, we mostly work from home, and none of us are sleeping well — medical professionals are touting the health benefits of the good, old midday snooze. They say that taking a few moments in your day to recharge can do more than just reduce fatigue. It can elevate your mood, improve productivity, and make it easier to learn and retain information.
For example, Sara Mednick, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California at Irvine, told The Washington Post (“Nap time is the new coffee break. Here’s how to make the most of it,” Feb. 1, 2021) that nappers perform as well on a pattern-recognition task as people who have slept overnight. She added that research shows naps enhance creative problem-solving, and that they can boost and restore brain power.
Further, a study published in General Psychiatry and reported on by CNN this year says adults ages 60 and older who took afternoon naps showed signs of better mental agility compared to those who didn’t nap. Sleeping behaviors can be affected by a multitude of factors, Dr. David Neubauer, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told CNN. Daily routines, medication use, environmental factors, lifestyle choices and sleep disorders can all play a role in how frequently someone takes a nap.
But just because you already nap regularly or sometimes find that you could use a good catnap, it doesn’t mean that you have a disorder. So if you think you could benefit from a periodic “coffee break,” experts say a so-called “power nap” of about 20 minutes is ideal. Anything beyond that could leave you groggy for the rest of your work day — because you slept too long and too deeply — and disrupt your sleep later that night. Don’t doze too late in the day (beyond 3 p.m.), because this could affect your rest at night. Also, make sure you are lying down in a cool, dark room. Trying to recline on your couch just won’t do. And don’t forget to set an alarm!
Who knows if this napping trend will continue, so if you can, take advantage. It could make you happier and healthier. Of course, nothing beats getting a consistent, seven-plus hours of sleep every night, but for many of us, that simply isn’t a reality. And for some, a daytime nap can be a hinderance to getting a good night’s sleep, especially if your afternoon siesta is lengthy. Figure out what works best for you.