You may think you should push through your inevitable midday slump instead of dozing off for a while, but you may want to reconsider. The National Sleep Foundation found that cutting our days into distinct periods of time between sleeping and wakefulness may not be a natural pattern for humans. Naps can actually be great for your physical energy and mental state. It’s recommended that you nap for 20 to 30 minutes, as this will leave you feeling refreshed and more energized, while longer naps will make you feel groggy.
Once you have the perfect setup for your nap, you will reap the following benefits.
1. Increased alertness
Though you may wake from your nap in a sleepy haze, you will likely find that when you do fully awaken, you are much more alert than you were pre-nap. According to The Art of Manliness, studies found that just taking a 20-minute nap can increase your awareness more than 200 milligrams of caffeine or even a brief exercise session. NASA also performed a study on the effectiveness of napping and found that a 40-minute nap will increase your alertness by 100%.
2. Improved memory and learning capabilities
According to Men’s Health, a group of German neuropsychologists found that if you nap after learning something new, you are five times more likely to remember it than if you hadn’t napped at all. The ability for your brain to go into a calm, relaxed state while you sleep is linked to your ability to remember.
Though you may experience a small memory boost during a shorter nap, it’s really the 90-minute naps that allow your brain to retain information much more effectively. Rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, is the final stage in your sleep cycle. It’s first achieved after about 90 minutes of sleep and then continues to occur every 90 minutes afterward.
3. Improved creativity
Napping also boosts functioning in the areas of your mind that are associated with cognitive processing and creativity. Treehugger reports, according to James Maas and Rebecca Robins, cofounders of Sleep for Success, that napping activates parts of the brain that are responsible for imagination and ingenuity while also helping to “clear out the cobwebs” and fuse new ideas together in ways that your conscious mind may not have thought of.
4. Improved physical health
A British study found that when you don’t get enough rest, your blood vessels become less flexible, which negatively affects your heart and can raise your risk of heart disease. According to scientists, lack of sleep may be triggering your brain to send signals to your blood vessels that make them stiff and unresponsive. Napping regularly can help keep your blood vessels as healthy as possible.
5. Reduced stress and improved mood
Napping is excellent for keeping you in high spirits, and it can keep anxiety levels in check. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that those who were deprived of sleep were significantly more anxious, putting them at an increased risk for an anxiety disorder.
Napping can diffuse the activity in this area of the brain and keep you calm. Don’t have enough time for a nap? Scientists found that even if you don’t end up falling asleep, resting in your bed can also lower your stress levels.