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The Health Benefits of Napping

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that one in five adults may be sleep deprived. Taking a mid-afternoon nap may improve your health and productivity.

The Health Benefits of Napping

Have you ever closed your eyes and fallen asleep on a warm sunny beach, listening to the waves crashing and the birds singing in the distance, only to wake up and realize you were nodding off at your desk again?  What ever happened to nap time?  In pre-school when you were tired, the teacher let you take a nap, but rarely if ever has your boss ever let you do the same thing.  Now, some doctors and researchers are finding mid-afternoon naps for adults may improve your health and productivity in the work place. 

For centuries, countries like Spain have embraced the idea of an afternoon nap or "Siesta."  In Spain, it is not uncommon for a shop keeper to close their store for half an hour in the afternoon while they take a quick snooze.  Young children, teens, college students and retirees all recognize the benefits of napping, yet many working age adults don't take advantage or don't have the opportunity to nap in the afternoon.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that one in five adults may be sleep deprived.  This not only effects individuals with a diagnosed sleep disorder or who have a medical condition that causes insufficient sleep, but also effects caregivers of children or a sick family member and those who have multiple jobs, or a job that requires long hours. 

Lack of sleep is also responsible for thousands of accidents and stubbed toes all across this great nation.  The same lack of focus and inability to fully concentrate on the task at hand can also lead to loss of production  in the work place.  While depriving yourself of sleep may not seem like a huge health risk, it can actually have some serious effects on your health.  A lack of sleep can put you at greater risk for health conditions such as weight gain, diabetes, depression, heart disease, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke or even a heart attack.

So how can naps help keep you healthy, you ask?  According to the National Sleep Foundation, our circadian rhythm, which is our body's internal clock that regulates our sleepiness and wakefulness cycles, has the strongest sleep drive cycles between 2:00am-4:00am and again between 1:00pm-3:00pm.  That means we are most tired, not only at night when we get most of our sleep, but again in the mid-afternoon when most adults are not getting to sleep.  A quick mid afternoon nap would help make us more alert and productive for the second half of our day.

More and more companies are cozying up to the idea of napping at work.  A recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that 34% of people surveyed said their employer lets them nap at work and 16% said they have designated areas for napping at work.  While nap time at work is not the norm, employers are always looking for new and innovative ways to keep their workforce healthier and more productive.  Allowing for siestas might be one way they can make that happen!

While naps seem like a splendid way to get some extra rest, it is not recommended you rely on naps in order to get the recommended amount of sleep.  The job responsibilities at many workplaces simply are not conducive to nap time during the work day.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours a night.  the best way to make sure you get enough sleep on a daily basis is by practicing healthy sleep habits.  Here are some tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to help you establish healthy sleep habits:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  • Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. 
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. 
  • Establish relaxing bedtime rituals. 
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature. 
  • Limit exposure to light in the evenings. 
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. 
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. 
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. 
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime. 
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

If you follow these tips and find you are still having trouble sleeping, don't hesitate to talk to your health care provider.  Our providers at Community Care Physicians can council you on healthier sleep habits or recommend a sleep specialist if needed.

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