Daytime napping may get a bad reputation in this day and age, but grabbing a short bout of shut-eye can actually improve heart health and memory retention. In recent years, sleep studies have shed new understanding on the functionality of mid-afternoon siestas, and how napping benefits the body and mind.
Why is it that small children fight off nap time with their entire beings only to miss these afternoon siestas by the time adulthood rolls around? Typically our society considers napping to be something toddlers and university students do- toddlers out of necessity and university students as a result of all-nighters and procrastination.
Scientists discovered a connection between those who routinely napped with a decreased risk of heart disease. Occasional nappers were found to have a healthier heart than their non-napping counterparts.
Researchers from the University of Athens Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health joined forces to study almost 24, 000 Greek men and women. All participants had no history or known issues with their cardiovascular health- in truth, they were all healthy individuals.
The scientists first categorized all participants into three nap groups: regular, occasional, or non-nappers. Factoring in age, physical activity, smoking status, education, diet, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio, they came to some startling conclusions.
Occasionally catching some shut-eye during the day was associated with a 12% reduction in cardiac mortality. Routine napping, however, reduced that risk even further, at 37%. This risk reduction was more apparent in the men over the women, as the occasional male napper was 64% less likely to die from a coronary disease compared to the non-nappers category.
To highlight this fact further, all one has to do is look at the population of a small Greecian island called Ikaria. Nicknamed the island of long life, or the place where people forget to die, Ikaria boasts a community where one-third of all residents live into their 90s. The longevity of the population is due, in part to the island’s regimen of daily siestas, paired with their healthy diet (more beans and legumes, less meat and sugar).
The state of sleep is anything but inactive. We may slip into a state of unconsciousness, but our minds are working overtime. During sleep, our brain cells shift short-term memory information into long-term storage. By napping after a serious study session, you could improve your memory of the recently absorbed information.
One study, in particular, examined this connection between memory retention and learning. The study discovered that sleeping after an intense learning session can help the mind solidify and retain what was learned, over and beyond that of staying awake for continued cramming.
Hunter-gatherer tribes like the Gabra in northern Kenya, or the San people in the Kalahari Desert, for example, sleep in this way. These groups of people still sleep at night, achieving about seven hours, but take an additional amount of sleep, say half hour to an hour, during the afternoon.
However, this sleep variation is not a cultural difference. Instead, it is deep-rooted biological programming that other parts of the world adhere to. In contrast, North American and western cultures typically do not.
Companies are slowly catching on to the beneficial aspects of napping. For that reason, some of the top corporations in the world have added napping rooms to their offices. Getting hired at one of these companies could see you enjoying more naps on the job: