HEALTHY LIVING: Fall in love with naps

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital
Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

You've probably heard the expression, "You snooze, you lose," but we'd argue quite the opposite. No one is suggesting you pass out in the Catskill Mountains for 20 years like Rip Van Winkle or snore for 100 years like Sleeping Beauty, but we want you to get your beauty sleep.

Why? A cat nap, a doze or a mini-siesta can boost your health. No mysterious drinks or poisoned spindles are required. And while there are rules to follow before you nod off, let's start by discussing the benefits of naps.

Naps benefit the body. One study found that napping up to twice a week could lower the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, stroke and heart disease. It also can help regulate immune responses, making us less susceptible to illness and infections. Maybe the best part is that napping has been linked to better weight management, while lack of sleep can increase obesity risks and disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism.

Naps increase brain power. Research has shown that a short snooze can allow us to think more clearly and efficiently. In fact, a study on adults older than 65 found that those who napped for 30 to 90 minutes after lunch had improved memory and quicker reaction time than those who did not sleep. The participants who took shorter naps also demonstrated better word recall.

Naps reduce stress. Chronic stress can increase heart rate and elevated blood pressure, but naps can help combat that. During rest, the body releases mood-boosting hormones that can help reduce stress and anxiety. One study found that napping could also help reduce negative feelings like frustration and impulsiveness.

The 'rules' for napping

The most important thing to remember about naps is to get the timing right.

The best time to nap is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. when most people experience that "midday slump." In addition, it's important to set the alarm so you only nap for 20 to 30 minutes.

While you might think you need more rest, you never want to nap longer than 90 minutes. While 30 to 90 minutes provides brain benefits, studies say longer naps may create problems with cognition and the ability to think and form memories. Longer naps also tend to make us wake up feeling groggy.

You also want to avoid napping after 3 p.m., which can interfere with your nighttime sleep.

While napping can boost energy and productivity, finding the right balance and listening to your body's needs is important. Experiment with different nap durations and timings to find what works best for you.

We're always looking for ways to optimize our time and get more done in less time, right? So, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, consider taking a quick power nap to give your brain the break it needs.

Schedule an appointment

If you regularly experience sleep difficulties, are still tired even when you sleep seven hours or are struggling with fatigue so great it affects your daily life, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. To find a physician near you, visit today.