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The Benefits Of Sleep And Power Naps

Mid-day sleep or a "power nap", means more patience, less stress, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency and better health.

Even in those who get enough sleep, but particularly in those who do not, many people experience a natural increase in drowsiness in the afternoon, about 8 hours after waking. Research shows that you can make yourself more alert, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning with a nap.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?
The body needs 7-8 hours of sleep per day; 6 hours or less triples your risk of a car accident. Interestingly, too much sleep - more than 9 hours - can actually be harmful for your health. Recent studies show that those who sleep more than 9 hours per day do not live as long as their 8-hour-sleep counterparts!

When you sleep you pass through different stages known as a sleep cycle. These stages include light sleep, deep sleep - which is believed to be the stage in which the body repairs itself; and rapid-eye movement sleep, or REM sleep - during which the mind is repaired.

The Effects of Missed Sleep - The sleep deficit
Sleep loss is cumulative; if you lose sleep one day, you feel it the next. If you miss adequate sleep several days in a row, you build up a "sleep deficit", which impairs the following:
  • Reaction time
  • Judgment
  • Vision
  • Information processing
  • Short-term memory
  • Performance
  • Motivation
  • Vigilance
  • Patience
    Fatigued people also experience more moodiness, aggressive behaviors, burn-out and more stress.
Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning. The body seems to be designed for this, as most people naturally become more tired in the afternoon, about 8 hours after we wake up. However, the last two hours of morning sleep have special benefits of their own.
How Much Time For A Nap
Many experts advise to keep the nap between 15 and 30 minutes, as sleeping longer gets you into deeper stages of sleep, from which it is more difficult to awaken. However, research has shown that a 1-hour nap has many more restorative effects than a 30-minute nap, including a much greater improvement in cognitive functioning. The key to taking a longer nap is to get a sense of how long your sleep cycles are, and try to awaken at the end of a sleep cycle. It is actually more the interruption of the sleep cycle that makes you groggy, rather than the deeper states of sleep.

However, if you only have 15 minutes to spare, take them! But if you could work in an hour nap, you may do well to complete a whole sleep cycle, even if it means less sleep at night.

If you only have 5 minutes to spare, just close your eyes; even a brief rest has the benefit of reducing stress and helping you relax a little, which can give you more energy to complete the tasks of your day.

01/31/06





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