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Dr. MAO’s WELLNESS CENTRAL: The Power of Nap for Health and Longevity

By the time you read this column, I will be in Barcelona, Spain. While there I plan on enjoying one activity that Spaniards are famous for—siesta! That’s right, this is one of my favorite longevity tips. Power naps: 10, 20, 30 minutes a day really rejuvenate and refresh your body.

Power Up with a Power Nap A long-time tradition in Latin countries, a siesta is a great way to jumpstart the second half of your day. Famous nap enthusiasts have included some of the best minds in history, such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Thomas Edison.

What they knew was that a midday snooze – while seeming to be an unproductive use of time – could actually increase their effectiveness. Some of the reviving benefits of naps include enhanced cognitive function, better reaction time, more patience, stress relief, and better overall health.

So how long should your power nap be? It differs from person to person, but on average, a brief nap to revive the brain should be between 15 and 30 minutes. Sleeping for any longer will get you into deeper stages of sleep, from which it is difficult to awaken. (If you are napping to compensate for significant sleep loss, you would of course want to take a longer nap, and research has much to say about the restorative benefits of lengthy naps.)

Nap Advice to Take to Heart: In America, coronary heart disease is the single largest killer of men and women. Taking a midday nap is one of the best ways to lower stress on your heart. Latin countries have lower heart disease rates and some studies confirm heart benefits of taking naps.

The body follows a circadian rhythm and according to Chinese medicine, noontime is the peak hour for the heart. In order to nurture your heart, traditional Chinese doctors advise that you rest and engage in calming activities at this time of day. Studies show that people who napped 20-30 minutes every day were 30 percent less prone to heart disease than those who didn’t take a midday snooze. If you want to live to be 100, you need to take a few naps along the way!

Snoozing on the Job: In this modern society we are pressured to work hard and then play hard, living by the saying, “You can rest when you’re dead.” Although catchy, it should probably say: “If you don’t rest regularly, you’ll be dead a lot sooner.”

Developed countries don’t value rest. Consequently, most adults in the U.S. are sleep-deprived, and this sort of fatigue affects our health, safety, and productivity at work, which in turn, affects a company’s bottom line. Think about it: sleepy workers make more mistakes and cause more accidents. Some companies are actually beginning to encourage power naps during the workday, providing a place where workers can rest briefly. Workers who take advantage of the opportunity to nap for 20 minutes during the workday report that they can then return to work with renewed enthusiasm and energy.

• Instead of combating the afternoon lull with caffeine – a tactic that creates the illusion of efficiency and alertness, but actually “borrows” energy from your life force that you didn’t have in the first place – try taking a power nap!

• If you only have five minutes to spare, just close your eyes. Even a brief rest can reduce stress and help you relax, which can give you the increase in energy you need to complete your tasks of the day.

• If you are uncomfortable with napping during the day, another option is meditation. It gives your body a rest and produces slower brain waves that are similar to sleep. Check out my guided Meditation for Stress Release CD.

Naps also make you look more rested and youthful—perhaps that explains the term “beauty sleep”! Speaking of natural beauty and youthfulness, check out our Face and Body Rejuvenation Retreat weekend in March to be held in Santa Monica, California. Log on to taoofwellness.com for more information. I hope this article shows you the wisdom of napping. May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, also known as Dr. Mao, is a bestselling author, doctor of Chinese medicine and a board certified anti-aging specialist. He practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the TAO of Wellness in Santa Monica, a Wellness Medicine group that he founded with his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni 25 years ago. He is also the cofounder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey. To make an appointment or to subscribe to a free newsletter please visit www.taoof wellness.com.

Contact Dr. Mao at [email protected]

310-917-2200

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