I Need A Nap

Today is National Napping Day which seems fitting since most of us lost an hour of sleep this weekend due to the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST). As I was browsing through my news feeds this morning, I saw the story that someone, somewhere has designated today as an unofficial recognized day to take a nap.

William Anthony, Ph.D., a Boston University Professor and his wife, Camille Anthony, created National Napping Day in 1999 as an effort to spotlight the health benefits to catching up on quality sleep.

I like naps. I wasn’t too fond of them when I was a toddler but as I grew older I have developed a more positive attitude about taking an occasional nap.

Here are some interesting facts about naps:

  1. There are three types of nappers: habitual, planner and emergency. Habitual nappers follow the same pattern every day. Planners are those who plan to nap before they feel tired. Emergency people who do it immediately when they are tired.
  2. Naps are good for stress relief. It gives your brain a short timeout from activity.
  3. You don’t have to actually sleep to have a good nap. Just lying still with your eyes closed for 20 minutes provides you with some needed rest.
  4. There is an ideal nap time. The best nap time is in the middle of your wake cycle.

Did you know that there is even a National Siesta Championship in Madrid, Spain? Contestants compete to fall asleep as fast as possible in order to win a cash prize. Contestants are judged based on their ability to sleep as close to 20 minutes as possible and also the speed required for you to doze off, your snore and sleeping posture. It’s also held in the middle of a busy shopping mall so it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

National Siesta Championship in Madrid, Spain

Naps should be kept between 20-30 minutes. Any longer can disrupt your sleep cycle and could make you pretty grumpy.

Most Europeans, except the Germans, usually snooze or relax in the middle of the day. China, India, and parts of the Middle East are also big napping territories.

Humans are the only mammals who willingly delay sleep and plan naps.

A NASA study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.

While napping at work isn’t acceptable in the U.S., in Japan, dozing off in most jobs is acceptable, including in parliament and in businesses. Naps at work are called inemur, which means, “to be asleep while present.” Inemur is viewed as exhaustion from working hard and sacrificing sleep for the job. Many people even fake napping to look committed to their job.

Google headquarters has “nap pods” that block out both light and sound.

I would like to observe National Napping Day in some way today. The switch to Daylight Saving Time always gets me out-of-synch so any advantage – or excuse – to nap seems like a good idea. The challenge is finding a place to do it.

Take A Nap!

Fatigue businessman

The first few days after we switch over to Daylight Saving Time always finds me a bit out of synch.  It is no coincidence that today is “National Napping Day”.   This day encourages us to take a nap and catch up on the hour of sleep we lost due to “springing” forward at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Numerous studies have shown that a short 10-20 minute nap can be effective when midday fatigue hits.  Improvements in alertness, productivity and mood have all show to be a positive effect of taking a nap.

If you decide to partake in “National Napping Day” here are some things to remember:

  • Keep your naps short.  Don’t nap for more than 20 minutes are you will risk entering deeper sleep and feeling more groggy instead of rested.
  • Take your nap in the afternoon.  The best time is usually during mid-afternoon when most people experience post-lunch sleepiness.  Don’t nap any later or you will risk messing up your nighttime sleep cycle.
  • Find a nice quiet and dark place with comfortable room temperature and away from any distractions.

Many successful people have taken advantage of naps.  Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and many others apparently understood the benefits of naps.  With a society that refuses to slow down, a nap will prevent a person from mental burnout.  Taking a nap allows us to get a reboot and take a timeout from the stress of the day.  People who nap have a greater emotional resilience.

I remember as a child that I resisted taking naps.  It seemed like a form of punishment but isn’t it funny that the older we get, the more open we are to taking naps?  When someone suggests naptime, I’m rarely opposed to the idea and possibly the first one to go to sleep.

I’m not advocating that you sleep on the job.  In most countries, sleeping on the job isn’t just frowned upon, it could get you fired.   In Japan, napping in the office is common and culturally accepted.   You are looked upon as successful if you napped.  In our country, naps aren’t really encouraged.  In fact, you are looked upon as lazy if you do it.    While it isn’t wise to nap while you are supposed to be working, taking a nap on a designated break is probably what is intended by the positive effects of a few minutes of sleep during the day.

You won’t make up for losing the hour from the time change this weekend, but you can do yourself some good by taking a short nap today.