My little grandson takes after his daddy. He doesn’t like to take naps. It’s as if he thinks he’s going to miss out on something really cool that the adults are doing if he goes to sleep while other people are still up and busy.
I remember everyone telling me that newborn babies sleep all the time. It sure wasn’t true with my son. He slept solid all night from the time he came home from the hospital, but he never cherished nap time. When he was in day care, they worried about him not taking a nap. He would lie down on his mat and watch silently while the others slept until someone woke up.
There was no babycenter.com to consult back in those days, but here’s what they say about baby naps: Sleep is vital for babies and young children, whose brains and bodies are developing at an extraordinary rate - but nighttime rest isn’t enough. Regular naps help them get the sleep they need. Do your best to encourage your baby to nap consistently. But keep in mind that his temperament and natural rhythms will help determine how and when he naps. Some babies nap for long stretches every day right from the start and settle easily into a pattern. Others do just fine taking shorter naps or napping at less regular times.
Although it seems to be the expected behavior of babies and the elderly, I think napping may be good for adults as well. According the National Sleep Foundation, 85 percent of mammals sleep at different periods throughout the day. Humans are among the rare group that have two basic blocks of time divided into waking and sleeping.
Here is a list of benefits for adult napping from that foundation: Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness 100 percent. Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day. Scheduled napping has also been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy (a condition that causes people to fall asleep unexpectedly). Napping has psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.
According to Web MD, Home & News, “If you can’t find extra time at night, daytime naps can be one way to treat sleep deprivation,” says Sara C. Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. “You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping,” she says. “You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost.”
The length of your nap — and the type of sleep you get — helps determine the brain-boosting benefits. The 20-minute power nap — sometimes called the stage 2 nap — is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing the piano.
What happens if you nap for more than 20 minutes? Research shows longer naps help boost memory and enhance creativity. Slow-wave sleep — napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes — is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions. Getting rapid eye movement or REM sleep, usually 60 to 90 minutes of napping, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems.”
I recently saw a segment on one of the television news shows documenting napping on the job. That sounds like a bad thing, doesn’t it? Apparently some companies don’t think so. It is becoming a more and more popular concept to provide a place for employees to go take a power nap. This might range from a reclining chair in the office to a break room with sleep chambers that include soft lights, music, and a 20 minute timer to make sure the power nap doesn’t turn into a snooze. I was impressed.
U.S. News reports, “Some companies are offering designated nap rooms or even setting up tents or lofted beds, but at Workman Publishing in New York, employees usually sleep underneath their desks or behind room-divider screens. “You can close your eyes for 10 or 15 minutes and wake up feeling completely refreshed,” says Susan Bolotin, Workman’s editor in chief, which has been nap-friendly since 2007. “We’ve seen very positive effects. I keep a nap mat in my office, and I’m still known to lie down, put my sleep mask on, and see what happens.” Bolotin has distributed eye masks to her team, and sometimes lends her office floor to those without a private workspace who are in need of a nap. “We have one guy who works here who likes to nap, and you’ll walk by and he’ll be lying down on a mat like a kid in nursery school,” she says. Other companies, including British Airways, Nike, Pizza Hut and Google, offer reclining chairs and “renewal rooms.”
Most employers who allow napping say they do so in the name of their staffers’ well-being, which research suggests is a smart idea. People who take daily 30-minute naps are 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease than those who don’t nap, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007. Naps can also boost the immune system-theoretically leading to fewer sick days-and propel employees into their most alert, energetic, and creative states, say nap advocates. “
While teaching is not so much a physically exhausting job as it is mentally and physically draining, I hear a lot of my much younger colleagues talk about going home and taking a nap at the end of the school day before they try to face the rest of their day. An afternoon slump seems to apply to people in all walks of life.
If we could look for the opportunities and make ourselves set aside the time, maybe we would all benefit from an occasional rejuvenating nap.