Welcome to 2011! Another year lies ahead and more imminently: a winter season. Especially in this season, parents the world over, share a commonality aside having children. Parents are tired. It seems the dark and dreary months of winter lead to even greater fatigue. It is the mantra of many mothers and can be read on the faces of fathers as they lumber in the door each evening...Little ones have changing sleep patterns which, in turn means Momma and Daddy lose sleep and have disrupted sleep cycles. The work day requires hours of concentration and energy. Younger children take their naps to rejuvenate but parents are left to function regardless of the need for and lack of sleep.
On Napping in America
Americans, unlike some other cultures, are not known as nap takers. America is all about productivity, a hard day's work, and naps equate to laziness. Nap studies are beginning to change the minds of even corporate America. Turns out that naps are actually being encouraged in some companies. In an article in Bloomberg Businessweek by Jascha Hoffman, she states, "Many companies have turned to the humble nap in an attempt to stave off billions in lost productivity each year. Following the rise of workplace perks like lactation rooms, gyms, and child-care facilities, Nike workers now have access to nap-friendly "quiet rooms" that can also be used for meditation. Google, a forerunner in employee perks, has a number of futuristic napping pods scattered throughout its Mountain View campus. Jawa, a small mobile technology company has two resting rooms — one with a similar pod, the other with an old-fashioned couch—that are popular among programmers. Many airlines, including Continental and British Airways, allow pilots to sleep during long international flights while colleagues take over the controls. Other companies, such as Ben & Jerry's, have no official policy but provide unofficial space for the practice and don't bat an eye when someone spends an extra half hour snoozing in the massage room." (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38907276/ns/business-bloomberg_businessweek/)
In some large cities like New York, napping salons are cropping up. In midtown Manhattan, a salon named Yelo offers daytime sleep solutions. They service companies such as Hearst, Newsweek, and Time Warner. Cocoon-like treatment rooms are offered where clients select sound, lights, and temperature. $15 covers a twenty minute nap and prices go up according to time spent napping. The US is not the first to offer such salons. There are nap salons in Europe and Japan, as well. Some schools in Japan are mandating a short nap at student's desks after lunch. In fact, a sleep researcher at Hiroshima University has said, "Japan is actually re-catching nap fever." In a Washington Post article about Japan by Anthony Faiola, he reports, "After-lunch naps have long been stigmatized as a sign of laziness in a society that experts call among the most sleep-deprived on earth. Suddenly, naps have become the latest rage, part of a mental alertness craze sweeping a nation known for its fondness for such fads. A flurry of scientific studies, books and high-profile news reports are heralding mini-siestas as an integral part of new daily regimens for enhancing mental agility. The rise of the mini-siesta is perhaps the most noticeable evidence of the Japanese interest in gaining a mental edge." (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006/06/20/AR2006062001603.html)
Many parents have grown up believing naps were meant for children, college students, and the elderly. What does research say about the "afternoon power nap" or the trendy, new upscale urban name 'metro nap'? "Tiny naps are much more refreshing than people tend to realize," said Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University in England. "A short nap in the afternoon will get rid of sleepiness without interfering with nighttime sleep." (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38907276/ns/business-bloomberg_businessweek/)
Results in Performance
Mark Rosekind, PhD, President and Chief Scientist of Alertness Solutions in California and former Director of the Fatigue and Countermeasures Group at the NASA, conducted an experiment in which he instructed NASA pilots to take short naps when possible during long haul flight operations. Dr. Rosekind found that compared to long haul pilots who did not nap, the napping pilots had a 34% boost in performance and a 54% boost in alertness that lasted for 2-3 hrs. (http://www.healthcentral.com/sleep-disorders/napping-192940-5.htm) Sleep studies have overwhelmingly found benefits to short naps.
The benefits of napping are numerous. The first is less stress. Researchers found that the relaxation of napping reduces the stress hormone levels. Naps also increase productivity and alertness. There may be a brief, ten minute period of grogginess after napping but once the fog lifts, nappers are more alert and productive than non-nappers. Naps can also improve memory and learning; napping may protect brain circuits from overuse. Mini-siestas may ward off heart attacks. (see sidebox) "In a recent study, researchers at NASA showed that a 30-minute power nap increased cognitive faculties by approximately 40 percent! Tests carried out on one thousand volunteers proved that those who continued working without rest, made lower scores in intelligence tests like the IQ test. More importantly, their capacities to work and memorize decreased in comparison to those who napped after lunch." Napping may also increase exercise as more reserved energy may promote individuals to get active. Naps can boost creativity and can add to overall sleep health. It can add to sleep lost during the night but also helps the body rejuvenate even if there is no sleep deprivation. Finally, naps are mood enhancers. Every one is a little happier and can handle life situations better after an afternoon nap.
How to Fit in a Nap
Parents are the busiest people on earth but a secret to being a better parent may just be found in an afternoon nap. If possible, take a short nap when children do. If work occupies the day, use half of the lunch break. Set an alarm clock if necessary. Experts suggest darkening the room or wearing a mask and recommend warmth by wearing a jacket or keeping a small blanket in your desk. If it is noisy, use earplugs. Preferably lie down, but if that is not possible, simply put one's head on a desk or table. Every parent could use a pick me up in the afternoon hours and unlike caffeine, naps do not make one wired, they refresh and rejuvenate.
Improve performance these winter months by jumping on the "Napping Bandwagon!" Join the likes of Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Salvador Dali who were all self-proclaimed nappers. The company is impressive and the benefits astounding. A long winter's nap may just be what the doctor ordered to give parents a healthy boost and help them keep pace with their little ones.
What's in a Nap?
In designing the optimal nap you need to grasp its potential elements. During sleep your brain's activity goes through a five-phase cycle.
Stage 1: Falling Asleep
Stage 2: Light sleep
Stage 3 & 4: Deep, slow-wave sleep
Stage 5: Rem Sleep, Dreaming stage
A short afternoon nap of 20 minutes yields mostly Stage 2 sleep, which enhances alertness and concentration, elevates mood, and sharpens motor skills.
A nap of 45 minutes may reach all the way to stage 5. It yields all of the above benefits plus it enhances creative thinking and boosts sensory processing.
Naps of 90 – 120 minutes usually comprise all stages which help to clear your mind, improve memory recall and recoup lost sleep.
Good for the heart.
Taking 40 winks in the middle of the day may reduce the risk of death from heart disease, particularly in young healthy men, say researchers. They studied 23,681 individuals living in Greece who had no history of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cancer and found those who took a 30-minute siesta at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death. The researchers took into account ill health, age, and whether people were physically active. So go ahead and nap — a short daily snooze might ward off a heart attack later in life. It is well known that countries where siestas are common tend to have lower levels of heart disease.