When was the last time you took a nap? Do you remember letting time and space slip away as you fell into a gentle mid-day slumber? Perhaps it’s been so long that you can’t recall your last nap. In these hectic and over scheduled times, napping may even seem like a guilty pleasure. It seems that western culture attaches a stigma to something that actually benefits our health.
Most mammals nap throughout the day. Take a look at your cat or pup, or head to any farm or zoo—everyone’s napping, and they’re doing it right. Why is it that humans are supposed to get all of their sleep in one shot each night? Children are encouraged to nap, but adults are typically not. Here are a few reasons why you might just want to revisit the nap. Naysayers be damned!
1. It lifts your spirits
When I’m not well-rested, I don’t like myself. I don’t imagine that anyone around me does either, as I’m irritable and run down from lack of sleep. I compare it to a case of “the terrible twos”; when sleep deprived, we act like toddlers throwing a tantrum. Everything aggravates, small problems become tremendous issues, and chaos ensues. Napping a few times a week will help keep you cheerful and clear-headed. Would you rather have a free mood boost with no negative side effects, or an overpriced iced latte (with complimentary caffeine crash a few hours later)? The choice is yours.
2. It reduces stress
The National Sleep Foundation notes that “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.” Napping reduces levels of cortisol, which is often called “the stress hormone.” Napping instigates a positive chain reaction—lowering cortisol levels improves your immune system, heart health and cognitive performance.
3. It increases libido
Not in the mood? Think of it this way: if you’re exhausted, then you’re cranky. If you’re cranky, odds are that you’re not feeling terribly frisky. Studies have shown that men’s testosterone levels drop when they’re not getting adequate rest, and women more frequently turn down intercourse when lacking restful sleep. A 10-15 minute catnap will leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated and good to go (in and out of the sack).
4. It helps to prevent burnout
It isn’t healthy to keep going nonstop without a break. Taking a short nap before a meeting or performance is like pressing the restart button on a computer. Don’t power down all the way—just reboot your system. Napping actually increases productivity, as long as you don’t overdo it. Studies indicate that quick naps keep us fresh and alert. It’s easy to rebound from a short nap, but long naps at first leave us too foggy to bounce back.
5. It lowers blood pressure
Over and over again, day in and day out, you hear about the importance of diet and lifestyle. Consuming a whole-foods diet helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels. If you add daily exercise that you actually enjoy, plus your new best friend—the nap—you’ll lower your blood pressure and impress a physician at your next physical. Studies show that regular midday naps reduce the risk of heart disease by 30-37%. Take a siesta, calm your frazzled nerves, and feel better—fast.