Most mammals sleep in short spurts through the day, what is known as polyphasic sleeping. Humans are monophasic sleepers which means we sleep at once for a long period of time, however did you know that before the Industrial Revolution, humans were also part of this frequently napping group? It was only with the advent of factories and work hours that we were forced to sleep through the night and be up early for the daily grind. Now that we live this monophasic life, there are days, that no matter how hard we try, we simply don’t have the energy to make it through the day. Nowadays, people are more sleep deprived than ever. Blame longer working hours, hours of commuting or binge watching television, but whichever way you look at it; we need to get more sleep. Could napping be the answer to this?
Naps for adults are often considered unnecessary however a study has shown that around 34% of Americans are napping during the day. But be aware, a nap is when you sleep for 20-30 minutes, not hours! The good news is that short naps have been shown to restore alertness and enhance your performance. A study done at NASA showed that a 40-minute nap improved performance of sleep deprived pilots and astronauts by 34% while alertness went up by 100%! Sleep deprivation is very dangerous and combatting this with short naps through the day can be one way to restore your body to its normal levels of functioning. For example, in a 2015 study, 11 young men were restricted to only two hours of sleep a night. The researchers found that their cytokines (which are involved in cell signalling) and norepinephrine (a stress hormone) levels had increased. Surprisingly, letting these men take two 30-minute naps actually restored their hormone and protein levels to their normal levels.
Naps have been shown to not only increase alertness but improve physical stamina and memory! A study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory showed that participants in a study who were given 90-minute naps performed better in activities related to associative memory than those who did not. Neither groups were sleep deprived either! Sometimes a nap can do for your brain what a full night’s sleep does which is a great way to refresh and energize yourself in the middle of a long day. Children start off by sleeping for up to 18 hours a day and then reduce that as they grow older as sleep is a huge requirement for good health and mental development. Crucial changes occur in children’s minds and bodies as they sleep while also helping them be less cranky!
We’re not going to lie, we’re often tempted to jump into our Dandelion Pyjamas for a midday siesta but the key is to give yourself a time limit. Set your alarm for 30 minutes and no snoozing! Happy napping.