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7 surprising benefits of an afternoon nap

Feb. 27, 2015 Tree Hugger

Ah, the afternoon nap. The domain of preschoolers and the leisurely, naps are all too often considered a luxury or a sign of slackery. But in truth, many (many) of us are chronically sleep-deprived and the quickest of naps can do wonders.

As Tony Schwartz, author and chief executive of The Energy Project writes in The New York Times, “No single behavior has more power to influence overall well-being and productivity, I’ve come to believe, than additional sleep, assuming you don’t currently get enough.” He goes on to note that short naps can be a powerful and highly efficient way to temporarily compensate for an inadequate night’s sleep.

Most experts recommend a nap of 10 to 20 minutes, any longer can lead to “sleep inertia” – a deep grogginess that can be hard to snap out of. But how can a mere 15 minutes of daytime slumber really help? Consider the following.

1. Provides a Memory Boost

In one study, participants who napped regularly for 10-, 20-, and 30-minute periods improved their performance on cognitive tests of memory and vigilance conducted in the subsequent two and a half hours. While those who napped more than 20 minutes suffered from grogginess, the 10-minute nappers experienced an immediate boost in performance.

3. Calms Your Nerves

A University of Berkeley study found that a 90-minute nap can potentially keep you calm. When study participants were shown faces that expressed anger, fear and happiness at noon, and then again at 6:00 p.m. They found that the subjects were significantly more upset by angry and fearful faces later in the day; but not if they had a 90-minute lunchtime nap in which they experienced REM sleep.

6. Boosts Your Willpower

Things can be tough when you’re tired, especially when it comes to matters of willpower which is often highest in the morning when the brain is fresh. As Psychology Today reports, when you’re sleep deprived, your brain has an especially hard time ignoring distractions and controlling impulses. Their advice? “A mid-day “power nap” can reverse the usual willpower drain from morning to night,” adding that a nap can reduce stress, improve mood, and restore focus.

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