Napping isn’t just for little kids and babies. Studies show that an afternoon nap is great for adults too. There’s no need to feel lazy for indulging in an afternoon siesta. A short nap in the afternoon can boost memory, improve job performance, lift your mood, make you more alert and ease stress. Here’s some of the scientific ways that napping can be help you.

1. Good for Heart Health – A nap can help your ticker.  Taking naps may offer a respite for your body to recover from psychological stress, with particular benefits to your heart. In a study of 23,681 people, those who napped occasionally had 12% lower coronary mortality, while those who napped regularly had 37% lower coronary morality. The association was particularly strong among working men.  Another study found that people who napped for 45 to 60 minutes had lower blood pressure after going through mental stress. So a nap can help your body recover and help keep your heart functioning well.

2. Improve Your Mood – If you’re feeling down or frustrated, try taking a nap to lift your spirits. Napping, or even just resting for an hour without falling asleep, can brighten your outlook. Experts say relaxation that comes from lying down and resting is a mood booster, whether you fall asleep or not.

3. Reduce Sleep Deprivation – A huge amount of people simply don’t get enough sleep, whether it’s caused by insomnia, busy schedules, or outside factors like noise pollution. The effects of sleep deprivation can include irritability, mental cloudiness, lethargy and even a heightened sensitivity to pain. A nap can help make up the missing nighttime hours of sleep, reduce these symptoms and increase that rested feeling.

4. Improve Memory – Sleep improves memory retention. As you doze at night, memory reactivation that occurs during slow wave sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep supports memory consolidation.  But even a 90 minute nap may give your memory a boost.  A systematic review including 12 intervention studies revealed even one afternoon nap may improve psychomotor function and working memory among older adults as well.  Other research has also found positive effects of napping for memory, including among a group of medical college students.  Those who napped 60 or 90 minutes had better declarative and procedural memory consolidation, as well as memory resistance against interference for procedural memory. In memory, resistance refers to the phenomenon of new memories interfering with your ability to remember older ones.

5. Reduce Stress & Anxiety – Naps are also a psychological respite from the worries and stresses of the day. Often taking one can act as a “break” from life in which one can gain clarity and distance from problems. This can also help one return to a problem with renewed determination and ideas.  A nap can boost production of a hormone which blocks certain chemicals caused by stress. It can help minimize both bodily and mental tension, which in turn helps lower risk of heart disease. In a recent study, napping was found to have a positive effect on levels of norepinephrine, a “stress hormone” which is linked with increases the body’s heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar.

6. Boost Immunity – Sleep deprivation or poor sleep hygiene may have a hugely negative impact on the immune system. Lack of sleep adversely effects and immune-regulating molecule called interleukin-6, and napping is an efficient way to boost this in the body. This could mean that those who nap are less likely to catch colds or get sick, which is beneficial both to the body, but also to mental health and work productivity.

7. Reduce Caffeine Dependency – Although caffeine can make you feel more alert, it can actually decrease performance of key brain functions such as memory. So next time you’re reaching for a cup of coffee, consider instead a short power nap, for a similar effect without the jitters. Furthermore, a short afternoon nap is better than an espresso, as it is far less likely to disturb your ability to sleep later that night. Naps are a healthy and natural way to boost energy and beat sleepiness.

To get the most benefits out of a nap, you need to time it right. Most people will find an afternoon snooze to be the most natural and helpful. Some say sleep is better between 2 and 3 p.m., when humans naturally have a dip in alertness. The time that works best for you will depend on how rested you are to begin with. If you’re well rested, a slightly later nap is better. If you’re behind on sleep, you’ll want to nap earlier.  Figure out what works best for you and get in those extra zzz’s when and wherever you can.  Your body will be so appreciative that you did.

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