Full disclosure: I'm a napping kind of gal. I've always, always needed more sleep than the average person, and if I don't get a certain minimum amount, I'll become insanely moody and/or grumpy. And though I don't get sick often, anything less than four hours a night will up my chances of catching a sore throat the next day. As a result, I've fully embraced the well-rested lifestyle — I get anywhere from eight to 10 hours on a regular basis, and I take soothing naps (complete with a five-setting sound machine!) whenever my schedule allows it.
As it turns out, there are more reasons to nap than just the fact that it feels nice. (Amazing to hear, right?!) Below are six reasons you should get those extra zzz's the good and proper way.
1. Napping makes your workday more enjoyable.
If you're dragging your tail around at work, consider a siesta to get your groove back.
"Napping is a means to rejuvenate the mind and body and has a positive effect on quality of life," said Larry Altshuler, MD, a board-certified internist, director of sleep medicine, and author of Doctor, Say What?. "Resting the body for even a short period of time allows the body's systems to rest and rebalance. This translates into more efficient as well as more rewarding work, which in turn makes work more enjoyable."
Furthermore, the doc recommends a short rest in the early afternoon — around your lunch break. "This is the usual time that our bodies and minds become tired and are not functioning as well, so napping then refreshes the body and mind so that you can continue working effectively the rest of the day."
2. It increases your productivity on the job.
You'll notice a serious attitude adjustment at work — and major growth in your output to match.
"Napping improves alertness, sharpens memory, and reduces fatigue — all of which makes us more productive," Altshuler said. "It helps us function better and helps us get more things done." New sales initiative, here you come!
3. It can reduce anxiety and depression.
Feeling agitated, sad, or tense? Hit the hay more often.
"In working people who are stressed (physically and/or mentally), their bodies produce substances such as cortisol, catecholamines, and neuropeptides that aid them in getting things accomplished on a short-term basis without harmful effects," he said. "However, long-term, unopposed production of such substances can adversely affect the immune system and vital organs, causing many medical conditions — including anxiety, depression, and memory/concentration problems. Napping both decreases the production and negates the effects of these substances and helps prevent them from damaging tissues of the body."
4. It can strengthen your professional and personal relationships.
Lashing out at your partner, friend, or colleague could be the result of a simple craving: a snooze.
"People who are stressed and tire more easily become angry, cranky, or just harder to deal with," the doc said. "If hormones (both male and female) become unbalanced, emotions are more brittle. A nap can de-stress and rebalance hormones and improve relationships — personally and with co-workers." The people in your life will thank you!
5. If done properly, napping won't interfere with your night of sleep.
You've probably heard that napping hinders your sleep later on, and that's true — to some extent. If you're not dozing for hours in the evenings, though, there's no need for concern.
"If done correctly, [napping] is beneficial," Altshuler said. "Usually napping does not interfere with regular sleep, but don't nap too long. One study revealed that 30 minutes is the optimal length, and shorter or longer durations do not provide the same benefits, although every person varies and you should find the optimum time for you. An hour should be maximum."
6. It can help you live longer.
Last but certainly not least, a little shut-eye reduces death rates from disease.
"Napping has been shown to decrease death rates from heart disease in countries in which afternoon siestas are common (the Mediterranean and Latin America)," he said. "Another study corroborated this especially in working men." Raise your glass (or your sleeping mask) to that!