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Alternative Approaches: The Luxury(?) of Napping

Alternative Approaches
The Luxury(?) of Napping

During stressful times, the last thing we think about is the need for better sleep. But rest is an essential part of keeping your performance and coping abilities strong.
Napping can be a wise, prudent and effective strategy to build your resislence.
Here is the scoop on napping - its benefits & how to make naps work for you:
Good napping is an art - and has a lot of science to it. Napping has been a tradition in some countries - think siestas in Spain - and is gaining popularity in the US. In North America there are several Pod napping centers in operation (MetroNaps) and statistics show that more than half of adult Americans nap at least once a week and one-third nap twice a week. 33% of adults surveyed by the National Sleep Foundations said they would nap at work if allowed.
Napping is not the territory of the weak willed. Some pretty productive and accomplished people are reported nappers - including:
* Lance Armstrong
* Albert Einstein
* Thomas Edison
* Leonardo da Vinci
* Napoleon Bonaparte
* Ronald Reagan
* Bill Clinton
Many top athletes and Olympians consider napping an important and crucial part of their training.
Nap Questions
I Have Too Much To Do. I Can't Afford to Nap.
With so much to do why should you bother napping? For all of these incredible benefits:
* Lowers risk of heart disease and improve heart functioning
* Repairs cells
* Lifts your mood
* Increases your stamina
* Look younger
* Increased awareness
* Improved memory retention
* Greater creativity
* Increased neuromuscular coordination
* Increased motor skills
* Improve your capacity to learn tasks
* Reverse information overload by protecting brain circuits from overuse
People who nap regularly live longer, stay more active, and increase their performance and productivity.
What Makes For Good Napping?
Many of us have had the experience of taking a nap and waking up feeling like a zombie for the rest of the day. With a little pre-planning and a napping strategy, you can turn that zombie experience into a refreshing interlude in your day.
When Should I Nap?
Your body is designed to take a downward swing in the afternoon. The biological urge to sleep is bi-phasic in humans and your body is programmed to sort of "force" you into sleep between 2-4am and again between 2-4pm. Along with a drop in your core temperature comes a significant drop in alertness. You find it hard to stay awake and all you can think about is sleep.
This afternoon lull towards sleep generally occurs about 12 hours after the middle of your night's sleep or about 8 hours after awakening. All things considered, this is the time of day for you to gain the most benefits from your napping.
This means you will be napping late morning or early afternoon and probably not past 3 PM. If you nap later than 3 PM you are more likely to slip into slow wave deep sleep and enter the zombie experience. You will need to experiment with times to find what works best for you.
How Long Should I Nap?
Anywhere between 5 minutes to more than two hours - but not more than three hours!
That groggy, cranky, zombie like feeling that you get when you awaken from a nap is a result of poor timing that caused you to wake up in the middle of your slow wave sleep stage.
In order to decide how long to sleep you have to know a bit about the architecture of sleep. The sleep cycle is divided into five stages of different types of brain activity. When you sleep you continuously recycle through these five stages of sleep every 90 to 120 minutes for a total of four to six cycles (of five stages of sleep) every night.
Stage I - you start drifting toward sleep.
Stage II - This is the stage that nappers want to reach. It is here that your body refreshes itself. Stage II lasts about 20 minutes.
Stage III and Stage IV- you enter the deep slow wave sleep.
Stage V - REM sleep when your eyes twitch and dreaming is most intense.
The biggest problem with napping is waking in the middle of a slow wave deep sleep stage- Stage III and beyond.
If you wake in the middle of a slow wave deep sleep, you are jolting your brain into desynchronization and forcing it to fire off high frequency electrical activity. During this time your limbs may feel very heavy, your eyes don't focus well, you are not the greatest at articulation and you will feel like you've left your mind asleep - which you have. It takes a while to get everything synchronized again. Better to avoid this with good nap planning than to try to counteract it.
The best naps are of two sleep designs.
The Twenty Minute Power/Cat Nap - plan for a 30-minute time frame. Ten minutes to reach Stage II sleep and 20 minutes to dip into the refreshing benefits of Stage II sleep and wake up before drifting further into the deeper sleep of Stages III and IV. Even three minutes of napping in Stage II sleep can be beneficial. If you find you have slipped into slow wave deep sleep add another twenty minutes to avoid the jolting problem of waking in the middle of a slow wave sleep stage.
The Sixty to Ninety Minute Restorative Nap - This restorative nap takes you all the way through a full sleep cycle of all five stages. This will take about 50 minutes from the time you fall asleep. This nap is the most restorative and rejuvenating. It is here that you will gain the most benefits from napping.
When you wake, it is normal to experience some degree of sleep inertia - that groggy, slow feeling. To minimize your sleep inertia either keep your naps to 30-20 minutes Power Nap or sleep all the way through the deeper Stage III and IV sleep stages.
Additional Tips
You can use an alarm to rouse from your nap at the appropriate time.
Don't nap longer than three hours.
Don't nap less than four to five hours before your bedtime.
If you got fewer than five hours of sleep the night before the Twenty Minute Power/Cat nap taken early afternoon might work best for you.
If you are getting sleepy in the late afternoon a walk outside might be more restorative for you than a nap.
If you have just consumed anything high in fat, sugar, caffeine, or anything else stimulating, you may find it hard to fall asleep - even if you feel sleepy.
Your body temperature drops when you nap so a cozy blanket or sweater may be helpful. A sleep mask, earplugs or relaxing music and a travel pillow are handy sleep aids and help to build a consistent nap routine so that the body quickly goes for it's restorative treat.
Do your best to get in as much of a reclining position as possible. Being horizontal is so much more restful.

Mary Ann Copson, a Certified Licensed Nutritionist and a Wellness and Life Coach is the founder of the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center for Women. You can visit her online at or reach her by phone at 434-263-4996.

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