Think naps are just for kids? According to the Pew Research Center, one-third of all adults in the U.S. will head down for a nap in a typical day--and with good reason.
Not only are we a famously underslept bunch, but even among the well-rested, napping can be a powerful antidote for a variety of problems ranging from bad mood to poor concentration.
Here are just five of the many reasons to make time in your day for naps.
Feeling sluggish at work? Research shows that the benefits of a nap beat caffeine and even medical stimulants for increasing alertness. To maximize your chances at beating midday sleepiness, you'll actually want to combine a nap with your coffee. Since caffeine takes a little while to kick in, drinking up right before you lie down will have your engines roaring just as you're ready to start the second half of your day.
Learning Made Easy
It's no secret that how well you sleep can have a huge effect on how sharp you feel. But in some cases, getting just a wee bit of shut-eye can be almost as good as a full eight hours.
A 2003 study published in Nature Neuroscience found that after a 60-90 minute nap containing both slow wave and REM sleep, subjects performed almost as well on a visual perception test as people who had gotten a full night of sleep. Short naps have also been tied to improvements on verbal memory and logical reasoning tests.
Napping--or just lying down to relax for a bit--has almost immediate positive effects on your mood. A 2006 study showed that emergency room doctors and nurses allowed a short nap break in the middle of their shift were nicer to patients (and did their jobs better). In the elderly, a daily nap has also been shown to improve measures of happiness, confidence, and overall mental health.
Taking Siestas to Heart
Napping is connected to heart health. A 2007 study in Greece showed that individuals who took regular midday naps for at least 30 minutes three or more times a week had a whopping 37 percent lower risk of coronary mortality. Even people who napped just occasionally saw a 12 percent decrease in deaths caused by heart attacks or stroke.
Having trouble solving a complex problem? Try sleeping on it for about 90 minutes. Length is key here, since you'll have to reach a state of REM sleep, according to a series of experiments from 2009. In this deeper state of sleep, changes in the balance of neurotransmitters may help the brain create new associations between information and past experiences, helping you see connections you may not have before.
Unfortunately, most of us lose our natural ability to nap as we get older. Here are some tips for getting back in the snooze groove.