(NaturalNews) Most people are aware of the negative effects of not getting enough sleep, but an Australian expert says that an afternoon nap is absolutely essential for functioning at full capacity.
University of Adelaide neural specialist Fiona Kerr says that taking a nap is vital, but it is important to get the timing right to derive the most benefits and avoid doing more harm than good.
“The best nap is really the 15-30 minute nap. It increases alertness, memory, cognition and mood,” she says.
Kerr likens taking a nap to cleaning your inbox because it will help you to recall, retain and store information more quickly and effectively.
However, she warns that too much napping can have the opposite effect, so be sure to keep it under half an hour. Sleeping for between 30 and 60 minutes is not ideal because your brain will think it is going into REM mode. Meanwhile, a nap that is longer than 90 minutes is not advisable because your brain will think it is headed into a full sleep cycle. This, she says, is why people feel a bit out of sorts if they’re woken up after a nap of this length.
For those who are interested in the benefits of napping, she says that practice makes perfect. She suggests heading to a dark and quiet place with as little stimulus as possible. She says that relaxing and concentrating on your breathing for about 20 minutes will be refreshing even if you don’t manage to fall asleep every time.
Numerous studies confirm importance of sleep
Kerr is hardly the only voice touting the benefits of naps. The benefits of naps and adequate sleep in general have been well documented. For example, a study from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that people who nap during the day have improved brain function and perform better on cognitive exams.
This study corroborates Kerr’s theory that napping is like cleaning your brain’s temporary storage in order to make room for new information. The researchers found that while the nappers were in a phase between deep sleep and the dreaming state, their temporary memories moved out of the hippocampus and into the pre-frontal cortex.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Matthew Walker, said, “Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness, but at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap.”
Inadequate sleep linked to a host of ailments
If you feel pretty sharp and think that you can get by with fewer hours of sleep and no naps, think again. A study by the Uppsala University in Sweden showed that sleep deprivation could lead to brain tissue loss. In the study, men who were deprived of sleep for just one night had a higher concentration of two molecules, S-100B and NSE, which are normally found in higher levels in patients with brain degeneration and brain damage.
It’s not just the brain that can benefit from proper sleep. Inadequate amounts of sleep have been linked to a host of troubling outcomes, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even a bigger risk of being in a car accident. With just under a third of Americans reportedly not getting enough sleep, it’s easy to see why these problems are epidemics in our country.
This is yet another example of how natural approaches can make a big difference to health. There aren’t a lot of commercialization opportunities when it comes to naps, so these benefits might not get a lot of publicity. However, lifestyle changes such as taking a short afternoon nap, eating healthy foods such as organic fruits and vegetables that are rich in nutrients, and getting regular exercise, can boost overall health far better than anything found on a drugstore shelf.