Research from the National Sleep Foundation found 70 percent of American adults are sleep deprived, or average less than seven hours of sleep per night. Sleeping less than eight hours on any given day can lead to, among other things, a weakening of cognitive processes. Some people can fall asleep the second their head hits the pillow while others toss and turn all night unable to get comfortable. Some avoid sleep because it’s counterproductive to getting work tasks done. I am often guilty of this. Others purposely neglect sleep in favor of play. The good news is that even if you don’t get enough sleep at night, it can be made up in the form of naps.
The National Sleep Foundation refers to “sleep debt” as the amount of sleep lost due to a poor night’s slumber, illness or any other factors that cause you to be awake. This debt can be paid off in the form of naps. Naps can not only revitalize you in the middle of the day, but also increase your overall health in the process.
A daily 30-minute session on a treadmill or elliptical trainer is obviously excellent for cardiovascular and heart health. But naps, believe or not, are also very beneficial to heart health. People who take naps during the day are 40 percent less likely to succumb to heart disease, according to a 2008 Harvard study. Allegheny College researchers found in 2011 that 45 minute naps during the day lower stress levels and blood pressure, both positives for heart health. This reinforces the idea that “power naps” are in fact effective and sleep does not have to extend for hours to benefit your overall health.
Researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel asked participants in their nap study to learn a sequence of taps, in which they were ask to bring together their thumb and finger. One group took a 90-minute nap after being shown the sequence, while the other did not. The nappers knew the sequence better when asked to do it again at night. The researchers concluded, after a few more trials, that naps helped the brain store new information into long-term memory. Elizabeth DeVitt, a doctoral student in sleep studies at the University of California, came to a similar conclusion after conducting studies of her own.
The saying goes “you snooze, you loose,” but researchers have found this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A 2010 study by Japanese researcher published in the journal Sleep found that people who slept eight hours per day were 50 percent less likely to be obese than those who slept six or less hours. A study by Columbia University netted virtually identical results. Those who sleep four hours or less are even worse off, having a 73 percent likelihood of being overweight.
Sports such as football, track and basketball can take a toll on your body due to the physical rigors involved. A Stanford University study on college football players found that those who attempted to sleep 10 hours per day ran faster sprint times. Researcher also concluded that the 10-hour sleepers had more stamina.
When we are asleep, our body is restoring itself. It produces protein that helps repair the damage done to our bodies during the day such as stress and any toxins. Napping boosts growth hormone production which is responsible for tissue and muscular damage repairs.
While napping helps fill that void for people that don’t sleep at night, more isn’t better. Research shows anything longer than a 45 minute “power nap” can leave you feeling groggy, lethargic and less productive. Learn from the felines and take short cat naps.
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