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The Power of the Nap – National Napping Day

Napping: the best way to wrap a day dream.

Those little bursts of unconsciousness that help us recover, prepare, and refresh.

We’re forced to do it as children, we long to do it as young adults, and we do it more and more as we get older.

But is napping really good for us?

To celebrate National Napping Day, here are 5 facts about the science of slumber and napping. We’ll try not to put you to sleep.

1. Sleeping is an important cycle.

Sleeping is a circadian rhythm (from Latin “circa diem” meaning “around a day”) which controls your body’s sleep/wake needs and cycle. It’s what makes us sleepy when it gets dark and energized when day breaks, as a way to maximize our productivity and safety. But your sleep/wake cycle doesn’t just affect sleep. As just one of the many (and many types) of biological clocks metaphorically ticking inside your body, it also helps regulate a variety of other bodily processes, including DNA repair. Chant with us, “Z-Z-Z for D-N-A!”

2. Our sleep patterns have changed—a few times.

You might have heard that in the past, people had a biphasic sleep pattern—two sleep and two waking periods per day. The theory went that we created on-demand lighting, and then switched to a single period of wake and sleep. But new science is telling a different story. Looking at sleep patterns in current pre-industrial societies, scientists did not see the biphasic sleep patterns they were expecting. These pre-industrial societies sleep just like we do now. The conclusion? We used to sleep one way, changed, then changed back for a variety of climatic, technological, and sociological reasons. Who knows what the future of sleep holds?

3. Being sleepy hurts the economy.

Being sleepy isn’t good. We all know that. It makes us grumpy, gives us headaches, and hampers our work. One study in 2016, found that being sleepy is costing the US economy up to $411 billion a year. And with 44% of us saying we’re feeling sleepy at least 2-4 days a week, we imagine this cost is only going to get worse. So, a good night’s sleep really is the best thing you can do for your own health, as well as that of your company, community, and country. Who knew sleeping could be so patriotic?

4. Caffeine keeps us going.

Caffeine is as important as water to many of us. The caffeine in your cup of coffee will take about 45 minutes to be fully absorbed into your bloodstream and last anywhere from 1.5–9.5 hours (with an average of 5). Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in our brain (adenosine being a chemical which builds up over the course of the day and lets our brain know it’s body is tired). Caffeine also seems to interrupt the actual sleep/wake cycle. But be careful: caffeine can be less effective as your body gets used to it, and can provoke some harsh withdrawal symptoms (as your humble author can attest to after two days of migraine headaches).

5. Everybody naps.

Birds do it. Bees do it. One-third of American adults do it. Even Cole Porter used to do it. Everybody naps. But are naps really good for you? Do they actually help? Yes-ish. It all varies on when and how long you nap. Naps are like vitamin supplements: they can help, but they should not be used as a replacement for normal body processes. The ideal length of a nap is about 10 minutes, providing the most restful benefits without the grogginess (i.e., delay of rest-based energy) caused by longer naps. So, nap smart, and give those batteries just the right amount of recharge.

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