Written By Ashima Seth
Naps: something children squirm away from and adults desperately seek out.
Humans are part of the fifteen percent minority of mammals that are monophasic sleepers. That is, our days are divided into two separate periods, one intended mostly for sleep and one for wakefulness and work . However, the ideal pattern for human sleep is biphasic–at a stretch at night, with a shorter rest period in the day. Studies have shown that when people are put into a simulation that lacks any indication of time, they will fall into this sleep pattern, showing that naps are important to achieving full productivity . According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a significant amount of adults in America do not get enough sleep on a usual basis, especially those in the student and workers’ age range .
While short naps cannot always make up for night-time sleep that is inadequate or poor in quality, a nap of 20-30 minutes taken during the afternoon lull in work or studies, or indeed, at any other time, can help to improve alertness and performance, as well as mood, without leaving one groggy or interfering with the mandatory night-time sleep. Not only do naps result in greater alertness, but they also help improve memory of both types, learning and working, lowering instances of excessive tiredness and overload of sensory information, increasing motor responses, creativity, and general well-being .
Deprivation in sleep results in excessive cortisol in the body, a hormone that helps the body cope with ‘fight or flight’ responses under stressful situations. Excess cortisol, however, produces adverse effects such as an increase glucose levels and fat, especially in the abdominal area, weakening the muscles and delaying or compromising immune responses, stymying learning and memory, and reducing the amount of GH (growth hormone). These disastrous effects can lead to diabetes and several heart-related issues .
When one sleeps, however, the growth hormone is released, counteracting excess cortisol and boosting the immune system, improving sexual drive, reducing anxiety and stress, and aiding in weight loss and muscle repair. Napping gives the brain an opportunity for respite, and the body time to heal .
It is generally agreed upon by experts that naps are optimal if timed by gaps of fifteen to twenty minutes; that is, a nap is most effective if it is for 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes, and so on . Not everyone is naturally great at napping--oversleeping or generally being unable to relax for short periods of time are issues that plenty of people face. However, with practice, one can get used to it and utilize it to increase one’s general productivity.