Most of us can say that we’ve all felt the urge to take a nap after lunch. However, few actually give in to a siesta, even when tired. But the experts categorically agree: napping can benefit the body in various ways. Here’s a small guide to help you master the art of napping.
Roman originsThe word siesta comes from the Latin sixta, meaning the sixth hour—lunchtime for Romans. Spaniards have adopted the expression to refer to the rest that follows at this time of day. Although it is fairly common to take an afternoon nap in Spain, Italy, and Asian countries, the practice remains poorly looked upon in most Western cultures. And yet, sleep is naturally biphasic—it’s structured as two distinctive episodes in a twenty-four-hour cycle. Naps are therefore completely natural and coincide with a drop in body temperature. The widespread use of telework offers the capacity to adapt your schedule to your physiological needs. Why not seize the opportunity to take a nap?
Only good things
Napping for better restorationIf you think that napping should be limited to young children and seniors, think again! In adults, a nap can help compensate for a lack of sleep caused by insomnia, an unusual work schedule, or a rough night. However, you don’t need to have had a bad night to benefit from a nap. Following the circadian rhythm, most people feel sleepy in the afternoon. This bout of fatigue can significantly decrease vigilance, which can affect both people suffering from a lack of sleep and those who are well rested.
Increased productivitySeveral researchers also see a connection between napping and improved cognitive and psychomotor performance. According to various studies, sleeping for just 10 to 20 minutes can increase learning capacity and memory, and help with creativity. Just like that, you can get back to work with better focus and enthusiasm!
Good for your health . . .In the long term, naps are associated with the prevention of heart disease. They also help reduce stress and lower blood pressure, as well as restore the nervous system. It’s no wonder that more and more companies are promoting this practice among their employees!
. . . and for your waistline!Taking a snooze can also help prevent weight gain! The sugar cravings that tend to show up in the afternoon can simply be a sign of fatigue. A nap can help you resist these cravings.
Three types of siestas
The catnapLasting just 10 to 20 minutes, this short moment of rest is just what you need to improve vigilance, energy, and concentration.
The medium napIf you tossed and turned all night, a one-hour nap will give you the energy you need to end the day on the right foot. This lapse of time also has a positive effect on memory.
The long napThis refers to a nap that spans an entire sleep cycle—one hour and a half. It allows you to fall into a REM sleep, which helps with problem-solving. This type of nap is ideal when you need to make up for a sleepless or short night. It should be limited to weekends or vacation time.
Tips for better nappingExperts recommend resting from as soon as the first signs of fatigue occur, that is, generally after lunch, between noon and 3 p.m. This period typically corresponds to the physiological drop in body temperature. To make the most of this daytime snooze, here are a few tips to better structure your nap:
- Lie down in a dark, quiet place. Ideally, use a bed, but if that’s not possible, try a couch or an armchair, keeping your back straight and your head leaning back.
- If the room is too bright or too noisy, wear a sleeping mask and earplugs.
- People with insomnia should avoid napping, as it can affect their sleep the following night. However, if you feel like you’ve hit a wall, take a short nap—no more than 20 minutes—before 3 p.m.
- Can’t sleep? That’s a sign that the brain—not the body—is exhausted. In this case, try meditating, relaxing, or breathing exercises.