Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

I’ll lie down, just for a minute – the benefits of napping

Posted in Health

Napping on hammock

Sofagirl and I shared a boss, at different stages of our careers, who, shortly after lunch, would close the door to his office, lie down on his cream coloured leather sofa and, come hell or high water, would take a nap. His assistant would block all calls and visitors, and would knock on his door when 20 minutes were up. I always thought the practice rather weird and prided myself in never having needed a nap in my life.

Years later, when working as a chef, I would notice my energy starting to fade in the early afternoon, even if I had been careful not to load myself with carbs and sugar for lunch. My immediate reaction was to walk over to the espresso machine and gulp down some caffeine before returning to my duties.

Since  working from home, it happens more frequently that, while sitting at my laptop in the afternoon, my concentration takes a nosedive and my body begs me to lie down. At first, I resisted the temptation and opted for either caffeine or a walk with the dogs instead but, one day, I decided to see what would happen if I closed my eyes on the couch….just for a little while.

Sleeping walrusThe napping ritual was fairly typical amongst my parents’ generation. I grew up in a mid-size Italian city where most fathers would take their lunches at home. Depending on what time they were expected back at work, some would enjoy an espresso and then take a nap; most mothers did that too. I remember having to tiptoe around the house after lunch, so not to wake them up – I dedicated that quiet time to sitting around and reading a book, escaping in my own private world before getting down to homework. These days, such practice seems quaint and anachronistic but it was retrieved from my memory banks when experimenting with the possibility of napping.

I rested on the couch and quickly slipped into a light sleep: twenty minutes later I woke up organically, wide awake and definitely more alert and ready to resume work. Could it be our former boss was on to something? I had heard of studies touting the benefits of napping and of many work places where naps are not only tolerated, but even encouraged; still I went digging for myself.

Before the invention of electricity, humans enjoyed significantly different sleeping patterns they do now. Most people would go to sleep in the early evening and wake up in the wee hours, around 1 or 2, and would read or make love until they were ready to sleep again. Apparently, that is the circadian rhythm of our bodies. Over time, we have learnt to concentrate our sleep in one long slumber but, scientifically, our system would rather have two periods of intense sleep  between 2 and 4 am and 1 and 3 pm. (livescience). It turns out that the midday meal has nothing much to do with our tiredness.

Even more surprising, if it’s a quick nap we are after, ingesting some caffeine before going to sleep will make us even more alert when we wake up, as caffeine takes about 20 minutes to jolt our nervous system.

Jennifer Ackerman, of the Guardian newspaper, reported a few years ago that separate studies conducted by NASA and Harvard University confirmed that napping for only 20 minutes helped with improved alertness, concentration and elevated the overall mood. If we were willing to take this even further, a 90 minute shut-eye would improve our memory and learning process – but that, in my book, still looks like frittering the whole afternoon away.

Depending on how my day is structured, I don’t feel the need to nap every single day but, with all this information on hand and no downside effects I could find, I am now giving myself (and you) permission to nap away when my body is asking for it. Just for a minute.

Images found in the public domain

Share on Facebook

13 Comments

  1. My Dad always came home for lunch & always took a short snooze thereafter; got up, and returned to work. Now that I’m older, if I feel like a snooze after lunch, I have one, and can testify to feeling a lot better when I wake up.

    June 25, 2013
    |Reply
    • I love hearing all these people coming out and saying they take a nap. Thanks for sharing and validating my point.

      June 25, 2013
      |Reply
  2. My husband naps nearly every day. It is a practice in which his father has indulged for the past 30 years and both men are very healthy and active.

    June 25, 2013
    |Reply
    • My friend Silvia is convinced her father’s lifelong habit of napping has kept him healthy, even during his recent heart troubles. There might be something there.

      June 25, 2013
      |Reply
  3. Interesting piece. Now I understand why after a cup of coffee, I take a nap and wake so refreshed. I love the concept of napping. I also grew up with family who sleep every midday. In Greece between 2 and 5pm, it’s actually rude to call homes since those hours are reserved for nap time. I would write more, but it’s time for my nap… 🙂

    June 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • The official excuse in countries that take a siesta is that it’s too hot to work in the middle of the day. Whatever the reason is, how civilized!

      June 25, 2013
      |Reply
  4. silvia
    silvia

    The image of you taking a nap on your couch with the dogs lying next to you is really cute.
    Napping is a seriuos ceremony in my family and I strongly believe that it’s thanks to this habit that my father is still alive today.
    You’re right, there’s a sort of negative stigma about it, maybe it’s not hip or trandy. But honestly who gives a …?
    So triple hurrah for good old nap

    June 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Did think of your dad’s ritual while writing this

      June 25, 2013
      |Reply
  5. I am a big napper. Nothing will erase my under eye dark circles better than a good hour sleep in the early afternoon. Too bad I can’t do it everyday!

    June 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Napping as a beauty routine. That’s a thought and a cheap alternative to creams and potions

      June 25, 2013
      |Reply
  6. I think there`s almost a stigma attached to napping, and even sleeping in modern western society these days. It`s like some badge of honour if one can survive on four hours sleep. Personally, I am very fond of the term `power napping` and very very fond of indulging in it.

    June 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • I am happy to see I am not alone! Yes, there is a bit of a stigma to sleeping, especially in this country. Yet another thing to reclaim!

      June 24, 2013
      |Reply
  7. Janet Rörschåch
    Janet Rörschåch

    That is brilliant. I love my afternoon nap. Might have to go and take it right now. 😉

    June 23, 2013
    |Reply

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: