Napping isn’t exclusive to humans – in fact, it is normal for most mammals to sleep in short intervals through the day. From that perspective, we’re breaking the norm when we nap (humans today are wired by default to sleep in one long stretch – which we usually do at night). Perhaps this has something to do with how we’ve evolved into a society that functions during the day and rests at night, and in days of yore, we too slept in numerous small bursts.
In any case, napping is enjoyed by humans of all ages (babies and seniors especially because they need more frequent rest periods). However, given our busy lifestyles today, napping can have benefits that extend beyond making you feel well rested – Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, JFK are but a few of the more famous nappers – this should dispel any apprehension that you may have regarding napping being detrimental to your productivity!
You can nap anywhere you want – in your bedroom, in your office, in your backyard (having a hammock for the occasional outdoor slumber is pretty nifty) – and you would still be getting all the benefits – here are some of the big ones:
Boost your daytime alertness
According to some lab studies, napping during the day can boost your mental performance and alertness. However, these ‘power’ naps should be short (around 10 minutes) for maximum benefit. Going past 30 minutes may cause you to lose some alertness for a brief period, but still, if you don’t extend the duration to the point that you’re actually sleeping rather than napping, there is some mental rejuvenation to be gained from the process.
Enhance your learning ability
It has long been known that sleep (the regular kind that we indulge in at night) is essential for the consolidation of your memory. However, recent studies have shown that a 90-minute nap can also play a beneficial role, especially with regards to associative memory (i.e. how your mind creates connections between unrelated events/objects/individuals).
A 90-minute nap is also great for perceptual learning, as per one study. This is defined as your ability to discriminate a target object from the surroundings. Scientific jargon aside, if you’re doing something that requires separating/picking out a particular target from the environment repeatedly (an example can be driving on a long stretch of road for hours), you can enhance your ability to do this just by taking brief periodic naps.
Become physically stronger
A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that the subjects yielded better performance in sprints when they took a half-hour long nap before the activity. In other words, if yourself physically consumed due to a hectic routine that leaves you partially sleep deprived, you can recover some of your stamina and reflexes by taking a short nap before a demanding activity.
Make napping a habit
It can be a challenge sometimes to drift off to sleep at will (especially for such a fleeting period), but provided that you follow good sleep habits, napping should not be a problem.