May 27, 2013

Naps: The Amazing Health Benefits

My 2 ½ year old godson protests vigorously when his mom insists on naps every afternoon. When he gets his nap, he is a sweet, energized kid for the rest of the day. If he doesn’t, he is cranky and unreasonable. That can be true for most of us. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us to go take a nap.

Sara Mednick, PhD, author of Take a nap! Change Your Life, as well as other sleep medicine researchers are telling us just that. Apparently there are a number of benefits for adults who nap during the work week:

  • Reverse aging
  • Strengthen the sex drive
  • Accelerate the ability to perform motor tasks
  • Enhance how the body utilizes carbs
  • Minimize stress hormones
  • Alleviate migraines
  • Reduce brain chatter before nighttime sleep

What else can a nap do for you?

  • A Greek study has also shown that men who take a 30-minute nap three afternoons a week will lower their risk of dying from a heart attack by at least 37%. Although other factors were included in the study, such as smoking, it appears that napping could improve cardiovascular health.
  • A New Zealand study found that air traffic controllers that work at night increased their alertness and productivity by taking a planned 40 minute nap each evening. It also improved their mood!
  • When our bodies naturally prepare for an afternoon nap by experiencing an energy slump, many people reach for caffeine or sugary snacks to keep going.  Later, when the effects where off and they experience that “sugar crash” they reach for more caffeine or sugar, in an exhausting cycle of ups and downs. A quick nap during the day can actually help us avoid putting on unwanted pounds since we are less likely to eat a more healthy diet when we nap.

What do I need to know? Make sure and keep naps to less than 45 minutes to avoid feeling groggy later. Catching a few Z’s between 1-3 pm is the best time for the perfect nap.

 

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