A few weeks ago, my wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
It’s been an absolute whirlwind since. Between working full time at my practice, writing for Health As It Ought To Be and taking care of our new child, you could say I’m exhausted.
My story isn’t unique at all; a lot of us are exhausted. It’s the daily struggle of an American.
That’s why I’m going to do my darnedest to follow the advice from doctors at the National Sleep Foundation and take more naps – especially as I’m putting my newborn son down for naps every few hours.
Why Both Adults and Babies Should Take Naps
It’s obvious why babies take naps; they’re growing at an astonishing rate and it’s energy intensive to do so.
The reason adults should be taking naps is because, despite what you might believe, a nap is actually one of the quickest ways to increase productivity.
In their recent report concerning the effects of napping on mental performance and alertness, the National Sleep Foundation made some pretty remarkable findings. Studying subjects whose lives depended on their ability to stay fresh under high amounts of stress and extreme exhaustion, they found short naps really helped the test subjects in a wide range of testing.
The National Sleep Foundation noted astronauts and military pilots were 100% more alert and performed 34% better on mental performance tests after a short 40 minute nap.
This gives credence to the popular theory that a power nap can improve alertness.
As you might suspect, these benefits are even more pronounced when longer naps are taken.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, longer naps of 60 to 90 minutes help people remember facts and boost memory, creativity, and improve overall emotional state. Co-author of the book “Sleep for Success,” Dr. Rebecca Robbins says that these longer naps are ideal for people who didn’t get an adequate amount of sleep the previous night.
“[It] will help you feel like you’re mentally, physically and energetically restored on a deeper level,” she says.
It’s this kind of evidence that allows me to recommend napping with great enthusiasm (even if it’s not as practical as we’d like).
Do This If You Want to Nap To Perform Better
If you’ve got a job or a schedule that would allow for it, take a nap in the afternoon between 2 and 4 p.m.
My infant son gets to take naps whenever he’s cranky. How lucky.
For adults, napping is best done in a calculated fashion. As Dr. Natalie Dautovi (an Environmental Scholar for the National Sleep Foundation) says, “The afternoon is the best time for adults to nap because of our body’s natural tendency to experience an energy drop at that time.”
If you want to make the most of your nap, it should be shorter than 30 minutes or longer than 40. If it’s in the middle, you can wake up with that “nap hangover” we all hate so much.
This is called “sleep inertia,” and it’s what happens when your body is woken up during a sleep cycle.
The other thing you should do is create an environment conducive to good sleep. If you can eliminate the distractions of loud noise and intrusive light, that’ll help maximize your nap time.
The bottom line is, if you feel like you must take a nap, do everything you can to take one!
Maybe even get a note from your doctors saying it’s beneficial for your health and performance to do so, and cite this study to prove it.