|Power of the nap||Sep. 2, 2006|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
|Written by: DR. GIFFORD JONES|
|Perhaps we should grab an afternoon siesta like South American workers|
Have you ever had the desire to cry out the following? "I'm tired and I don't give a tinker's dam what the boss thinks. I'm closing the door and taking a nap."
In our North American society, what we want to do and what we can do without getting fired are two very different things. But is it time for employers to agree that South Americans are not crazy for shutting their doors and having an afternoon siesta?
Dr. Scott Campbell, a U.S. sleep expert at Weill Medical College, says, "Napping is a healthy habit if your schedule permits it. I don't see why you would try to overcome what your body is trying to tell you."
It's the old story that if you don't use it, you lose it. In this case, if you don't snooze, you lose. There's scientific evidence that napping has benefits. Sleep experts say that our internal clock is programmed to make us sleep twice every 24 hours. The first need for slumber occurs between midnight and 7 a.m. Then the eyelids start to droop again between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. This biological readiness to sleep in the mid-afternoon also coincides with a slight drop in body temperature. Moreover, this decrease in body temperature occurs whether we eat or not, and even in those who are well rested.
The majority of studies show that even a nap of 15 minutes can increase mental and physical performance as well as mood for the remainder of the afternoon. This is true regardless of age.
Campbell reports that a study of 32 men and women between the ages of 55 to 85 found that older people scored higher on tests of cognitive ability and reaction time after napping.
Campbell says it's a myth that an afternoon nap interferes with nighttime sleep. It may take a few more minutes to fall asleep at night after napping, but people sleep just as long and deeply as on no-nap days. Moreover, their actual sleep time increased by one hour on napping days.
North Americans and employers should realize that napping is a part of our lives right from birth. Moreover, if it's good for healthy toddlers, surely a short siesta is even more urgent for those of us with grey hair.
Napping may also be part of an evolutionary, geographical mechanism that evolved in certain cultures, particularly those close to the equator. I'm sure that in South America it didn't take too long for our evolutionary genes to conclude it's prudent to get out of the blistering noonday sun. As Noel Coward wrote, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun."
Suppose you're one of the lucky ones who can afford to take a nap without getting fired. Sliding under the desk is not a good idea. Rather, choose a peaceful spot, dim the lights and draw the drapes. Set the alarm if you're concerned about oversleeping. And don't nap longer than 20 to 25 minutes. You may enter a deep sleep after 30 minutes, making it more difficult to get back to functioning well. As in most things, moderation in napping is the key.
If you can't nap but need energy, avoid sugary treats that provide only a brief, temporary lift. Instead select protein and complex carbohydrates such as cheese and whole-wheat crackers.
And go easy on caffeinated drinks.
I was delighted to learn of this research. I'm an early morning writer, usually at my computer by 7 a.m. But as sure as night follows day, after lunch I start to yawn at every other word. When my eyelids start to close, I know it's fruitless to continue. But after a short nap, I'm back to writing something intelligent. (That of course may be a debatable point!)
I admit it would be easier to sell ice to Eskimos than to sell an afternoon nap to Canadian employers. But since they're always preaching the need for increased productivity, they might find a little snooze time improves their bottom line.
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