Is it good for me to take a nap or not?

The science and benefits of napping

A question that I’ve asked many times. In fact, I used to have a very dismissive attitude towards napping. I wouldn’t have it. I thought no, I don’t need to sleep. Sleep’s for the evening. But, actually I completely changed my mind. I equate sleep to going out for a long day and taking a spare battery to boost your mobile phone. Taking a nap’s the same thing.

If I’ve got a long day, a hard day, a creative day, or I’ve had a really bad night’s sleep, no problem. I’ll just go and have a 20, 30 minute nap if I can. Recharge my batteries and then crack on again.

Is taking a nap good for you? Science confirms that yes, it is. But, there are some conditions. A nap is ideally taken between 12 and 2pm. Any later than that, and you might be cutting it a bit fine, chipping into your evening sleep. It’s very good to bolster a poor night’s sleep. But 20 to 30 minutes won’t take you deep into that sleep cycle of REM sleep.

It’s been found to improve focus and creativity, so there are some real positives. Focus is something that we would all like to have a little bit more of, and it will boost this in the middle of the day.

Plus creativity. For problem solving, we know that sleep is really beneficial. There’s a myriad of studies that have found that sleeping boosts creativity, and helps us to solve problems.

It also helps us to retain information, that’s another real benefit to sleep, particularly napping.

Try and think about having a polyphasic sleep pattern if you can. I appreciate for some of you that work in offices, it’s not always possible. Although what I am doing is trying to campaign for, for people in corporates, is to bring in sleep pods, sleep centres and recovery rooms, so that we can go and take that nap if we need to. But, we’re some way off that.

Think about polyphasic sleeping, if you can. Certainly at the weekend, can you catch a nap for 20, 30 minutes on a Saturday or a Sunday?

Polyphasic sleeping is sleeping in stages; maybe it’s getting four sleep cycles, about four hours or six hours of sleep in the evening, and then catching another nap in the afternoon to boost your sleep. That would be polyphasic sleeping.

If you are taking a nap, the final thing I suggest is having an eye mask and quietening your mind, just to make the most of that short period you’ve got. The eye mask will just block out any light which can encourage the brain to think it’s awake and not sleeping. That of course is a problem with taking a nap. It’s out of our circadian rhythm.

So the answer is yes. The studies have found that taking a nap is good for you. If you can, try it. Cap it at 30 minutes, wear an eye mask, and just quieten the mind down a little bit before, so you can go off relatively quickly.

Please let me know if you have any questions at [email protected].

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Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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