Why a 20-Minute Nap Could Change Your Life

Men's Health

A nap while on the clock may not win you Employee of the Month but it can havea positive effect on your productivity. Image by Thinkstock.

By Ashley Balcerzak

While your boss may not appreciate the snoring in the office, the truth is that well-timed sleep actually boosts your effectiveness as a worker. “A brief mid-day nap can reduce levels of fatigue, improve reaction time, promote learning, and improve coordination,” says Dr Michael A. Grandner, instructor and a member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

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There is, however, a right and wrong way to grab some quick shuteye. Try to sleep as close to the middle of the day as possible, preferably eight hours after you wake up, says Grandner, or else it will be more difficult to go to bed at night. Ideally your snooze should be 20 to 30 minutes—it’s best for regulating brain functions and keeping you from feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck when waking up from deeper sleep. Keep reading for three sound reasons to rest your eyes right now.


Improve Your Memory

A 2012 Northwestern University study showed participants could play a recently-learned song on a keyboard more accurately after it played in the background of their afternoon nap. The reinforced tune helped consolidate the memory, making it more easily reactivated when awake, according to the study authors. Wondering why we’re pushing a catnap in place of simply a steaming cup of joe to motivate your noggin’s memory? According to a University of California San Diego study, people did significantly worse in memory exercises when hyped up on caffeine compared to people who slept in the middle of the session.

Additionally, UC Berkeley research shows that memorized facts are briefly held in the brain’s hippocampus before being sent to the prefrontal cortex for more permanent storage, which occurs during your Stage Two sleep, or the point you reach in a 20-minute nap. Without this transfer of memories, your hippocampus “fills up” like your voicemail inbox and wouldn’t be able to hold new information, meaning a siesta preps you for learning more stuff, concludes the study authors.


Relieve Stress

Looks like it’s possible to sleep your worries away: Night shift nurses who took two 15-minute naps during nine-hour work shifts reported feeling less stress and tension in a recent Japanese study. The researchers noted that if the medics followed a stricter snoozing schedule during their breaks, they would feel the napping benefits more strongly, such as feeling more alert.

Need more convincing? In a study from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, students who dozed after taking a mentally taxing math test had significantly lower blood pressure and thus higher cardiovascular recovery than those who stayed awake.


Lose Weight

Immobility as a sort of calorie-burner? This sounds too good to be true. “What we know about sleep and weight loss, the more sleep-deprived you are, the less likely you are to lose weight,” says Dr Michael J. Breus, author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep. If you’re consistently shorting yourself on pillow time, taking a longer, 90-minute nap that encompasses a full sleep cycle will help lower your sleep deficit and positively alter your levels of hormones ghrelin and leptin, making weight loss more likely, Breus says.

Leptin tells your brain when you’re full, while ghrelin gives you an appetite. Studies at the University of Chicago and Stanford University found that when participants slept less, leptin levels decreased while ghrelin increased, meaning the men felt hungrier and craved high-carb foods 45 per cent more than those who got more shuteye. RELATED
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