Most people have felt how restorative a good night’s sleep can be for the mind and the body, but very few adults take advantage of the benefits of napping. On average, adults should have about eight hours of sleep per night to maintain their health and brain functions; however, many people fall short. If you find yourself falling short of the recommended eight hours, try to incorporate power naps (10, 20, 30 minutes per day) to rejuvenate and refresh your body.
Nap For Your 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 fewer instances of heart disease and some studies relate this to the health 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 likely to develop 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. Naps also make you look more rested and youthful – perhaps that explains the term “beauty sleep”!
Power Up With A 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 nap – 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 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 CD – Meditations for Stress Release.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors,” and “EXTRA.” Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at email@example.com.