Quality sleep is as essential to good health as a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise, yet many of us are frighteningly used to going through life with heavy eyelids. This has a disastrous effect on our day-to-day lives and can have dangerous consequences to our long and short-term health. Missing hours of sleep immediately increases our anxiety, forgetfulness and our ability to be distracted, putting us at greater risk of injury (4% of car accidents are caused by drowsy driving). Sleep deprivation over longer periods of time causes cardiovascular disease, depression and insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). So even if it feels relatively ‘normal’ for you to be underslept, it’s a norm you need work on changing. Most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, with some individual variation on either side.
The Sleep Debate Is Long Over. Throughout history some of the world’s most brilliant minds have disregarded the importance of sleep. Inventor Thomas Edison, for one, was particularly outspoken about it, regarding sleeping as a waste of time and claiming he only needed 3 or 4 hours each night. (He might be pleased to know his invention of the lightbulb is credited with stripping us of 1-2 hours of sleep each night.) However, what Edison neglected to share publicly was that he’d mastered the art of the power-nap (a short 15-20 minute snooze) and would take them regularly throughout the day; his home and laboratory were set up with various cots to accommodate these ‘mini sleep’ sessions, and many photographers caught snapshots of his dozing habits. These days it’s agreed upon that naps can do wonders for our health; they improve our alertness, learning ability, performance and memory. If you’re lucky enough to find the time, a midday catnap may be well worth your while.
How Long To Nap. Research has shown that even naps as short as six-minutes, known as ultra-short sleep episodes, can improve our long-term memory. According to sleep expert and author Sara C. Mednick, PhD, “You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping. You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That’s what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost.” Meanwhile, naps of 30-60 minutes (slow-wave sleep) are good for decision-making, recalling directions and memorizing vocabulary. Longer naps of 60-90 minutes are when rapid eye movement (REM) generally occurs; this plays an essential role in making new connections in the brain. A complete sleep cycle is 90 minutes (not that most people have this much time free during the day) and these long snoozes aid in creativity and memory.
How To Master The Power Nap: (from Mednick, author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life):
- Keep it regular. If at all possible, keep a regular nap schedule. During the middle of the day between 1-3 pm is ideal.
- Keep it quick. Set an alarm for 30 minutes or less to assure you don’t feel groggy afterwards.
- Keep it dark. Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster, so either wear an eye mask or close the blinds.
- Use a blanket. Your body temperature drops while you’re dozing, so be sure to have a blanket handy.
* Check out this fabulous TedTalk about the importance of getting good sleep: here. Learn more about how much your body needs these hours of rest to function well, and how you can work on prioritizing sleep to significantly improve your health and quality of your life.
* Song To Get You in The Mood: “Thinking About You” (by Frank Ocean, live on SNL).
Gorgeous, mellow and full of heart. And that chorus …
Sources & Related Links:
“10 Reasons Why You Need More Sleep”, article: http://goo.gl/rqRRc7
“9 Surprising Reasons To Get More Sleep, article: http://goo.gl/UPcKgy
“Women And Sleep: 5 Simple Steps To Get Better Rest”, article in Harvard Medical School website: http://goo.gl/4McAO5
“The Work We Do While We Sleep”, article in The New Yorker magazine: http://goo.gl/0O7dGh
“The Secret And Surprising Power of Naps”, WebMD article: http://goo.gl/oxQsCJ