Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nap Time Anyone?

“I’m tired. And as it turns out, you’re probably thinking, ‘Me too.’”  That’s the first line in a Forbes article, Want To Be Smart and Successful? Take a Nap, and I couldn’t have agreed more, as I was writing this on a Monday morning.  I’m usually tired on Mondays and quite often several afternoons a week.  That day, though, I had to get up earlier than usual and fight traffic for an hour, so that I could sit in a strange office while a computer technician transferred all the data from my old computer to a new one—a task that took six hours. While he did all that, I had access to my work email, but not much else, and I sat yawning, as I thought of all the work I could have been getting done. 

I have always needed eight-nine hours of sleep a night, preferably nine, and trust me, I’ve been teased about that most of my life. I’m sure you know folks who brag about existing on five to six hours a night. I’d be a walking zombie on that amount of sleep.  Actually, I’m a zombie when I get only seven. My husband says that my brain with no sleep is much like my brain after a few too many drinks.  

I felt better about my sleep habits when I read the list of long-term effects of not enough sleep: “loss of long-term memory, emotional instability, psychiatric impairment, reduced cognitive skills and ability to learn, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, vision and hearing problems, compromised immune function and elevated cortisol levels.”  That’s enough to make me want to take a nap right this minute. 

Several articles I’ve read recently speak to the benefits of catch-up sleep. Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep? According to the article with this title, you can. "’Nobody knows how long the horizon is, probably a few nights, but studies show that recovery sleep in the short term does work,’ says Dr. Winter, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.” He says you can catch up by sleeping in on the weekend, but suggests routine naps may be even better. 

I can sometimes sleep a little later on the weekends, but I find it more and more difficult to sleep in more than 30 minutes or so. Of course, that could have more to do with the dog nudging me to get up than anything else. On the other hand, I have no difficulty taking a nap at least once most weekends.  Often, the cat will join me, and the dog will even lie quietly beside the bed for about an hour.  If a good night’s sleep and a nap here and there can stave off just a few of the ill effects cited, then I should be in good shape.  

The Inc. article, Should Your Employees Take Naps?, cites several studies that support the benefits of napping: 

In 2010, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed that napping can improve the brain's ability to retain information, noting that a middle-of-the-day reprieve "not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before." Two years earlier, at the University of Haifa in Israel, researchers found that naps help "speed up the process of long term memory consolidation," while the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Atlanta concluded in 2007 that a short catnap during the day "may be a useful strategy to improve not only mood but also job satisfaction". 

Even though I get at last eight hours of sleep most nights, all too often I have difficulty keeping my eyes open as I sit at my computer in the afternoons.  It’s at those times that I wish my company endorsed taking afternoon naps like Google, Ben & Jerry’s and Proctor & Gamble and other companies.  What a marvelous idea. 

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