As if we needed another reason to enjoy a midday snooze, a growing body of research suggests that napping helps improve memory. Think of a nap as a quick reboot for your brain, triggering a neurochemical process that helps you remember things and learn new tasks.
Several recent studies, here and abroad, have linked midday naps to improvements in cognitive function. Researchers from the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, for instance, reported that short naps—some as little as six minutes—significantly improved memory.
That’s not all: Most adults find that a nap improves their concentration and makes them more alert. French researchers, writing in the journal Sleep, found that nappers, especially younger ones, did better on a nighttime driving test than non-nappers.
Improve your napability
Some of history’s most creative people understood the benefits of a midday nap. Johannes Brahms and Napoleon reportedly savored their siestas, and Winston Churchill claimed that napping allowed him “to press a day and a half’s work into one.”
Why this need to snooze only hours after waking from a nighttime slumber? Sleep researchers have learned that the urge to nap in the afternoon is nearly universal. It is driven largely by our internal biorhythms, which control wakefulness, temperature and other processes.
While it’s normal to feel some fatigue during the course of the day, talk to your doctor if you experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Chronic tiredness and a frequent need to sleep may be signs of depression, sleep apnea, medication side effects or other health problems.
For most of us, naps are safe, enjoyable and beneficial. Here are some tips for a restful nap:
- Short naps are better than long ones. Some people feel refreshed after just 10 minutes. Long naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep and cause post-nap grogginess.
- Don’t nap close to your bedtime. Napping too late in the day can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. If you have insomnia, daytime napping may worsen it.
- Napping is not for everyone. Some people find it hard to nap or feel worse after they do. If that’s you, find other healthy ways to counter the midday slump, such as a brisk walk or other form of exercise.