THE INFORMED SLEEPER
Sleep Science

The Benefits of Napping

"Nap Time" by Drew Brayshaw under CC by 2.0

In European culture, the benefits of napping are connected to providing people with a more relaxed lifestyle, as well as improving health and reducing stress.  Afternoon napping, also known as an afternoon siesta, has been prevalent throughout history in Mediterranean and Southern European countries and still remains a constant part of their everyday routine. The main reason these afternoon naps came about was due to the large lunchtime tradition in Europe and the tired feeling people would experience after eating their midday feast. This is also what we know as a “food coma” today. Unlike America, people in Europe will have a breakfast around 10:00 a.m. and since it’s the least important meal of the day, it is also rather small and made up of a flakey pastry and coffee. Their next meal is lunch followed by an afternoon siesta, which takes place between 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Because lunch is considered the most important meal of the day, it is usually made up of several courses of food, accompanied by wine and spirits. It’s also common for shops and businesses to close down for two hours during lunch and siesta, having everyone return well-rested and ready to work the latter half of the day.

 

It’s important to know, however, that these everyday naps in European culture are not lengthy, but are rather only 15 minutes to one and a half hours. According to Dr. Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside research shows that “a nap—defined as daytime sleeping that lasts between 15 and 90 minutes can improve brain functions ranging from memory to focus and creativity. For some people, naps are as restorative as a whole night of sleep.” After being well-rested from this midday lunch break, many people return to work alert and focused until about 8:00 p.m., which is a normal time in Europe for a business to close.  This European lifestyle of napping after lunch is also proven to have improved health and quality of life. The benefits of napping are linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and inflammation, and also lowers stress levels. Professor Androniki Naska of the University of Athens medical school in Greece claims that an afternoon nap “may act as a stress-releasing habit, and there is considerable evidence that stress has both short and long-term adverse effects on the incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease.” Naps are one of the most powerful tools for self-care and act as a midday recharge for our hard working brains and bodies. The benefits of napping have been proven through scientific research and have even shown that Europeans tend to live longer because of how these afternoon siestas reduce stress levels and promote cardiovascular health.

 

Unfortunately, the afternoon siesta in America is often frowned upon due to our workaholic culture, despite all the proven benefits of napping. When we think of someone stopping to take a break from work and snooze for 1-2 hours there is an assumption that person is unambitious or lazy, when in reality that is not the case. It’s becoming more and more common that people in the United States experience sleep deprivation because our busy lifestyle prevents us from napping. Although naps do not make up for the lack of quality nighttime sleep, a nap that is anywhere from 15 minutes to one and a half hours can help improve alertness, performance, health, and mood. If you don’t have the opportunity to incorporate an afternoon nap into your daily routine due to work restrictions, a deep and peaceful night of sleep is the next best thing. The luxurious DUX® Bed will have you recharged every morning, just as if you were living in a more restful European culture. 

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