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There's no better energy than the one we gain from a good night's sleep. However, there are many benefits that come from taking a short power nap as well. JFK, Churchill, and Edison were fond of napping in between running their respective countries and laboratories, and recent research has unveiled that short power naps are good for both body and mind.
1. Increased productivity
Progressive companies like Zappos, Nike and Google have designated nap rooms for their employees. In Japan, the law requires workers to rest after lunch. Why? Because studies have repeatedly shown that power naps improve productivity. Nowadays, people tend to work more hours than ever before and are increasingly 'burning out'. An afternoon nap counters this with a boost of energy. If you work the regular 9-5 shift, it’s best to avoid a nap in the late afternoon, as this can affect your nighttime sleep. Experts recommend a 10-30 minute snooze in the middle of the day.
2. An energy boost without stimulants
Most people reach for a cup of coffee or a sugary energy drink when they’re a little low on energy, but caffeine and sugar are short-term boosts. They are inevitably followed by crashes, making you less productive and even more tired later in the day. These temporary energy fixes can also wreak havoc on your health, especially energy drinks, which put pressure on your heart while dehydrating you. A power nap offers a much healthier choice for a shot of energy.
3. Clarity of thought
Research into short sleep cycles suggests a power nap is beneficial to your cognitive functions. During sleep, the brain does its ‘housekeeping’. It spends time classifying data and consolidating memories. After you wake up, your mind will be less jumbled and you will be left with more organized thoughts.
4. Increased alertness
Everyone who works during the day should be familiar with the afternoon slump. Naturally, people experience a drop in energy 8 hours after waking, usually between 2 and 4 pm. Research suggests that taking a nap after lunch can give you a jolt of energy and circumvent this.
A healthy person requires 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day. Many people cope with 6 or less, but you're likely to be grouchy and make mistakes. With less than 6 hours of sleep, the risk of car and work accidents triples. A power nap can improve your reaction time and reduce those risks.
6. Improved memory
Napping can be restorative for learning and memory retention. Several studies have found that students who took naps before exams scored significantly higher on their tests. The reason? During sleep, the hippocampus, the part of the brain that consolidates our short-term memories, uses the time to transfer information to the long-term memory, thus making sure we don't forget what we just learned.
7. Elevated mood
Sleep is, simply put, a relaxing activity, and can have similar effects on your mood to that of physical activity. A power nap isn’t a substitute for a full night’s rest, but it can certainly bolster a grumpy mood and reduce the stress caused by sleepiness. Even if you’ve had a decent night’s sleep, a nap won’t leave you groggy because the short period of time you were asleep didn't allow you to fall into a deep sleep, the type that leaves your senses addled.
8. More creativity
Creativity comes in different forms, and while some tasks may not seem like they require much creativity, everybody needs and uses it in some capacity. A good power nap affords your brain time to process information. This time also allows the brain to slot thoughts into the relevant crevices and, when you wake up, you will more capable of creatively combining ideas. Things will suddenly click together.
Power naps also work to counter the negative effects of stress and everyday anxiety. Researchers found that the restful breathing we do during sleep relaxes tension in our backs and shoulders and lowers our blood pressure. Some people find they’re not able to nap at work, but they can get away with meditating. Although not as powerful as a nap, meditation produces slower brain waves, similar to those produced during sleep, which reduce stress and clear the mind.
The power nap not only makes you a healthy worker during the day, but it also affects your overall health too. Researchers have found that regular 'power nappers' have a lower risk of developing heart disease and getting depressed. Naps have also been shown to help people better process carbohydrates and to balance hormone levels.