If you find yourself exhausted when 3 p.m. rolls around, perhaps you would benefit from taking a siesta. When naps come to mind, you’re probably thinking of your toddler-aged self protesting against the downtime. The difference between now and then is that you finally realize the value of sleep and would give anything to spend a few extra hours in bed.
A recent study found that napping during the day isn’t a terrible idea after all. Dr. Manolis Kallistratos of the Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, Greece lead a study where he observed the blood pressure of 386 middle-aged men and women in their offices and during their naps.
He found that those who slept midday reduced their blood pressure compared to when they were awake. As a result, it cuts back the chances of cardiovascular problems by up to 10 percent. Not a bad reason to start napping, right? But there are many other health benefits that taking a siesta has — check them out below.
1. You'll be more alert. A Harvard men's health study found that a nap as long as 20 minutes can increase alertness, performance, and mood in employees. So next time you feel that lull coming over you in the late afternoon, see if you can sneak off for a nap in the break room.
2. It increases creativity. If you find yourself with some writer’s block, a nap might be the solution to your problem. Studies have found that during sleep, the right side of your brain —responsible for creativity and visualization — is more active than the left side. The left side, which focuses on analytics and numbers, remains dormant, allowing the right side to do its job. This is probably why you found yourself being able to pick up where you left off at school after a nap.
3. You'll have better associative memory. In an experiment done on forty-one people by the Experimental Neuropsychology Unit at Saarland, scientists discovered that short naps helped adults improve their associative memory. To conduct this study, the subjects were given various words to memorize and then half of them were told to take a ninety-minute nap, while the others watched a DVD. Lo and behold, those who napped memorized more words. The reason? Scientists say it’s because the naps help with the ability to link unrelated items together (like the name of someone we just met).
4. It's great for your mental health. Like your muscles, your brain needs a little bit of a workout and then some rest. Taking a quick cat nap is a good way to escape your daily stresses and relax your mind and body. The psychological benefits also include minimizing the risk of depression, a common issue experienced by those who lack sleep.
5. Your immune system will get a boost. This tip will be extremely helpful during flu season when everyone around you is sick. When the body is stressed and isn’t getting adequate sleep, the hormone, norepinephrine is released and causes your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar to raise. Napping helps keep those levels stable, but an immune-regulating molecule called interleukin-6 was found to drop in subjects during a sleep study done by Brice Faraut, a sleep researcher at Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité in France.