Russell Wilson, 55, looks forward to coming home for lunch from work every day to take a 20-minute nap. The New York City executive recruiter who lives only 8 minutes away from his job has an hour for lunch, just enough time for a quick meal and a nap. “I look forward to napping more than I do eating lunch,” Russell enthuses. “My afternoon power siestas fuel me. I wake up feeling energized and ready to go full-force at work. If I miss a nap, I am miserable!”
Russell is certainly not alone in his need for the kind of daily system reboot he experiences every day after napping. Reportedly, with regards to the over age 50 set, 41 percent of men and 28 percent of women admit to taking a daily nap. Experts seem to agree that napping, particularly for older adults will provide them with more energy overall. According to Susan Venn, Ph.D., a researcher in sociology and co-director of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender at the University of Surrey in the UK, “Sleep is central to health and well-being, but as people get older, the quality of their sleep can deteriorate. They shouldn’t feel guilty or think themselves lazy for having a nap.” The National Sleep Foundation also recommends short naps of about 20 to 30 minutes “for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy with nighttime sleep.”
It is a known fact that aging can bring about cognitive decline issues involving memory and the processing of new information. A recent Johns Hopkins University study revealed that napping for as long as one hour may also help boost memory and thinking skills. Junxin Li, Ph.D. with the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology and co-author of the study found that an hour’s nap improves cognition in older folks. On the flip side, according to the study’s results, people who take no naps, short naps, or extended naps experience a decline in cognitive function that is comparable to a 5-year increase in age.
Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D., author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, is a staunch napping advocate who firmly believes it can practically cure all that ails you. In her book Dr. Mednick mentions how this natural ‘product’ is nontoxic, has no dangerous side effects, is absolutely free and can boost creativity, improve perception, stamina, motor skills and accuracy; enhances sex, relieves stress, aids in weight loss, reduces heart attack risk, elevates mood, keeps you looking young and improves decision-making. Whew!
And speaking of heart attack, according to a large study that was published a few years ago in Archives of Internal Medicine, those who take midday naps at least three times a week are 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease, and working men are 64 percent less likely. “Taking a nap could turn out to be an important weapon in the fight against coronary mortality,” said Dimitrios Trichopoulos of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who led the study makes the case that, “If you have an opportunity to take a nap, then, yes, do it,” he said. “If you’re accustomed to taking a nap, then don’t give it up.”
If you’re thinking about incorporating napping into your daily grind, well here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation that can help you catch some zzz’s:
- Make sure your sleep environment is restful and free from stimulants like loud noises and light
- Check the temperature to make sure the room is comfy
- Find the right time to nap. If you nap too early in the day, you might not be ready to sleep. Naps late in the day tend to interfere with nighttime sleep patterns.
- Keep the nap short to avoid sleep inertia, grogginess, and feelings of displacement that can come from a deep sleep. Set an alarm to avoid oversleeping.
- Try to keep the same napping schedule every day