Boost Your Mental Performance: By Taking A Nap
Sleep deprived or not, a nap can help you make it through a long day. Naps have the power to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation and give your brain a midafternoon boost. You can work a nap into your daily routine to increase productivity, creativity, and help you feel your best all day long.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep actively plays a role in healing, cleansing, and energizing the body. Without enough of it, your ability to perform mentally and physically starts to suffer. For example, the brain doesn't get enough time to cleanse itself of toxic proteins that build up throughout the day if it hasn’t gotten enough sleep. The immune system can't recharge or circulate enough white blood cells through the body, and the emotional center of your brain goes into overdrive when there's a lack of sleep.
Sometimes the demand of a stressful job can fatigue you even if you get a full seven hours of sleep. For many people, fatigue takes over in the early afternoon. Concentration, mental acuity, and decision-making abilities can all go down as you start to get tired.
But, naps can change all of that.
Benefits of Napping
There are certain learning processes like memory consolidation that take place while you sleep. A nap acts as a mini-booster to this same process. It gives the brain a chance to enter the sleep stages where memories are consolidated and creative connections made. Consequently, both memory and creativity are enhanced after a nap.
A good nap can also give your immune system a lift, especially if sleep deprivation is the cause. Grabbing an extra thirty minutes can even restore the levels of appetite-related hormones to the correct levels. Naps have the power to restore concentration, increase perceptual awareness and stabilize moods. It’s hard to see how a nap wouldn’t be a good idea.
Despite all the benefits, naps need to be used wisely. A nap that's too long or close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your nightly sleep cycle.
You also have to consider how, when, and where you're going to get a nap. Most employers don’t provide a nap time. That means you need to work within the confines of your employment. You might have to cut your lunch short by ten to fifteen minutes to make time for that quick power nap. If you need something longer, you consider combining breaks or coming to work 30 minutes early so you can take an extra 30 minutes midday to restore yourself.
If a nap is truly the best way to increase your productivity, you can find a way to make it work.
Focus on Nighttime Sleep
While naps are a great way to give yourself a mental boost, you still need to focus on getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep at night. It's during this long period of sleep that the body restores, heals, and rejuvenates itself to the fullest.
Create a Haven: Your bedroom should be the place where you escape from the world, and everything in it should support good sleep. Check your mattress for any lumps, bumps, and weak spots that could be causing nighttime discomfort. Mattresses can be ordered online and delivered to your front door, making the process of getting comfortable that much easier.
Follow a consistent schedule: Go to bed at the same time each night and try to develop a relaxing bedtime routine. The consistency helps your brain recognize when you prefer to start the sleep cycle. If you plan to make a nap a part of your daily routine, it too should be at roughly the same time each day.
Get outside: The brain uses exposure to natural light to correctly time the sleep cycle. Try to spend plenty of time outside in the morning and early afternoon to keep your cycle on target.
Whether you have a demanding job or struggle with insomnia, a nap can be a way to boost your productivity, creativity, and help you reach your goals. It takes consistency and effort, but adequate sleep is an important part of maintaining your physical and mental health
***Written for Meridian Counseling by: Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy's a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.