You’re probably familiar with that feeling of drowsiness that starts to take over you at noon. It’s not just you; it happens to all of us whether we’ve eaten or not. The sudden decay we experience in the middle of the day is due to a natural decline in the alertness of the organism. The body asks us to take a nap.
In this article we will delve into the reasons that make us sleep at noon, what health benefits it has, what its disadvantages are, how long the nap should last and give you some tips to enjoy a restful nap.
WHY DO WE TAKE A NAP?
Nap is that rest time that the body asks for at noon, usually after lunch. We usually allow it to recover lost sleep, anticipate a night of wakefulness, to enjoy or to pass the time.
It is a natural necessity, a custom that, according to some research, a primitive man already had and abandoned it to adapt to the ever-faster rhythms of life. In fact, humans are one of the few animals that sleep only once a day, as the rest alternate phases of sleep and wakefulness during the day.
The word nap comes from ancient Rome. The Romans divided the day into hours of light and hours of darkness. During what they called the sixth hour of light (equivalent to 12 pm), the hotter time of the day, they took the opportunity to pause their work and rest.
This short break in the middle of the day began by being called “sex tear” or “save the sixth” and eventually became “sister” or “keep napping”.
BENEFITS OF NAPPING
That napping is beneficial for health; it is something that has been shown in different fields of science, affecting both our immune system and our mood, among other things.
IMPROVES MOOD AND ENCOURAGES POSITIVITY
Some studies show that a nap of between 45 and 90 minutes in which you get into the REM phase of sleep, makes waking up more empathetic and receptive to the emotions of others, decreasing negative prejudices and moodiness and increasing positivity.
While we sleep, the brain produces more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that provides a sense of satisfaction and well-being.
STIMULATES CREATIVITY AND MAKES IT EASIER TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
Different neurological studies have found that during napping and especially if the REM phase is reached, activity in the right hemisphere of the brain associated with creativity is stimulated. Naples is, for example, more creative in finding solutions to problems.
HELP MAINTAIN GOOD HEART HEALTH
Lack of sleep triggers cortisol production in the body, which among other things can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
During napping, however, growth hormone is produced that acts as a cortisol antidote.
Sleeping up to 45 minutes of nap has been shown to help cardiovascular recovery after exertion and lower blood pressure, as demonstrated by this study.
IMPROVES REFLEXES AND ALERTNESS
A NASA study of 747 pilots showed that after a 26-minute nap, they were more alert, had better reflexes, and made fewer mistakes.
BENEFITS MENTAL HEALTH IN THE ELDERLY
Some studies have revealed that those elderly who nap and combine it with moderate exercise in the evenings have better mental health than those who do not.
The benefits also have an impact on physical health and improve nighttime sleep quality.
BOOSTS MEMORY, CONCENTRATION AND LEARNING
Sleeping for a while at noon has several benefits, such as allowing you to absorb new knowledge then and fix those already acquired previously. Sleep facilitates short-term memory storage because it transfers recent memories to the neocortex, where long-term memories are consolidated.
This process frees up space in the hippocampus to save new information.
Napping is recommended because it increases worker productivity and children’s school performance.
REDUCES THE RISK OF OBESITY
According to the results of a study by the University of Navarra, even if sleeping less than five hours increases the risk of obesity, if supplemented by a daily nap, the opposite can be achieved. Not only is the risk of obesity reduced, but healthy weight maintenance is achieved.
RESTORE OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a study revealing that just 30 minutes of napping is enough to restore the impact of a bad night’s sleep on the immune and endocrine systems.
This short break can return both systems to their normal levels again.
REFRESHES THE BRAIN
After the meal, the neurons that produce the hormone orexin, responsible for keeping us awake during the day, are deactivated, which explains the drowsiness we experience.
This is because the brain needs this resting time to cool off and recharge energy. However, this break should not exceed half an hour, as in that case, it would have the opposite effect.
HOW LONG THE NAP SHOULD LAST
There is no exact match about this. The recommended range is between 10 and 30 minutes.
If you exceed 40 minutes, you enter the deep sleep phase for longer. Thus, the organism becomes accustomed to sleep and, when cut, is forced to return to the active state at once, secreting large amounts of cortisol. This produces an inflammatory response that results, among other things, into a headache.
Also, extensive naps increase blood glucose levels, triggering obesity, type 2 diabetes and even cardiovascular accidents.
DISADVANTAGES OF NAPPING
Despite its many benefits, napping can also cause some drawbacks such as:
It is that feeling of stun, disorientation and even clumsiness that we feel when we wake up. According to scientific studies, this is due to a cognitive performance impairment that occurs immediately after waking up and can last up to half an hour.
Generally, if the nap is short, it doesn’t have to happen and doesn’t usually affect night rest. However, naps that exceed 30 minutes could worsen sleep quality at night and can lead to insomnia.
Although rare, in some people it causes a type of headache that can last from 20 minutes to hours.
TIPS FOR A RESTORATIVE NAP
If you’re one of those who likes to take a nap or, after this article, you’re considering starting to do so, take note of the following tips to take full advantage of its benefits and make it really restorative:
Create the perfect atmosphere. The main thing is to find a comfortable place, where there is little or no noise, with a pleasant temperature and, if possible, in low light.
Do it at the right time. Between 13 and 17 hours, circadian rhythms suffer a fall, coinciding with the moment of greatest drowsiness. That’s why napping after lunch is the most beneficial.
Don’t take long naps. Ideally, nap between 10 and 20 minutes, try not to go past 30 minutes to prevent it from interfering with nighttime sleep.