Napping for health

June 15, 2009 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Health

The nap has often had a bad press; associated with the elderly dozing off or the siesta so beloved of hot countries that is seen as ‘lazy’ or pointless in the more achievement-obsessed countries of the west. Leaders of men, and industry, however have often valued the nap as productive part of their day and now there is evidence that they were right all along.  Winston Churchill certainly was a great believer and he would have applauded new sleep studies backed up by acknowledged sleep experts that a nap during the day means you stand a better chance of being more mentally alert and efficient, and more likely to be in better mental health than your non-napping neighbour.

Have you ever started to just nod off in the middle of the day and sternly pulled yourself together and focused on what you were doing? Well, don’t because your body is trying to tell you that you need a break. If you want to continue being productive, don’t fight it but allow yourself to take a short interval and close your eyes. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just drift off, because resisting sleep means your brain is still arguing with your body and that won’t refresh you at all! You don’t even have to go to sleep, just relaxing and letting your mind drift can be just as refreshing – it’s the complete break from your routine that your body is trying to tell you that it needs.

If you don’t live in a country where a siesta is normal, then build in your own version of it. Can’t nap in the office? Why not? Tell people you are working on an important project and can’t be disturbed – and lock the door. Your health is an important project, so you are not being untruthful. Ten to twenty minutes works for most people, and certainly not longer than an hour or your body will slip into a real sleep and you will wake up feeling worse, not better. After lunch is often the time the body naturally wants to slow down as it is using energy to digest your food, but you need to monitor your own rhythm and see what works best for you.