John F. Kennedy did it. So did Leonardo daVinci, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt and Napoleon. Salvador Dali did it too, with a method that only took a few seconds, using a technique followed by the Capuchin Monks.
It was part of Winston Churchill’s daily schedule, allowing him to stay sharp and deal effectively with the horrors of war that raged around him. He is quoted as saying:
Chronic sleep deprivation is becoming a serious problem. As the world charges ahead at breakneck speed we are trying to accomplish more by sleeping less. An estimated 47 million adults in the United States are sleep deprived – regularly getting far less than the recommended 7-8 hours snooze time each night.
Lack of sleep makes us crabby, interferes with creativity and judgement, and a whole lot more. It’s been linked to the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, poor job performance, and ranks second as a cause of accidents just behind alcohol use. If you’ve ever experienced insomnia, you know how miserable you can feel slogging through a day.
In an effort to get needed rest, many Americans turn to drugs for help. Did you know that, according to the National Academy of Sciences, 8.5 million Americans take prescription sleeping pills at least once a year? Two million Americans take them every night for at least two months at a time! 51 million Americans (nearly one in four) have taken tranquilizers.
Aside from helping to offset some of the problems that go along with lack of quality nighttime sleep, the nap adds another whole dimension to the day, and brings with it a unique and valuable set of gifts:
- The recuperative effects of an afternoon nap can more than make up for the loss of an hour of nighttime sleep.
- Multiple naps can lessen the impact of subsequent sleep deprivation. For example, an MD would perform better if he/she were to take a few naps before going on call for 48 hours.
- Even a 15-minute rest can improve your alertness, performance and mood for hours.
- Naps, not caffeine, can help prevent motor-vehicle accidents caused by sleep deprivation. A tired driver who drinks coffee to stay awake is still likely to succumb to “micro-sleeps”- brief naps lasting four or five seconds. In that short time, a car going 55 mph may travel more than 100 yards, which can easily cause a fatal accident.
- You’ll be able to work longer. Research on transoceanic sailors in the Around Along race – which takes place every 4 years – showed that by taking frequent naps, the sailors could function for days at a time with only 3 hours of sleep in each 24-hour period.
While it’s certainly true that a nap isn’t a cure-all there’s so much to recommend it, that perhaps it’s time to stop apologizing for the need to nod. How about allowing employees a 20-minute snooze break, instead of the caffeine fix? Perhaps we should just be allowed to succumb to that natural lull we feel in the afternoon. Think about all the parts of the world where the siesta, riposo, or afternoon rest is an honored and integral part of daily life. Energy and brain power have a chance to reboot. Productivity might increase, and certainly we would be a lot nicer to be around.
There is something so wonderful, so civilized about the nap. We withdraw by choice. Go to the couch, or bed or hammock. Disconnect and unplug. We grab a blanket, possibly our dog, close our eyes and trust that world can go on without us for a short while. As an antidote for stress, a brief respite from the going and the doing. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Bye for now folks…I feel a nap coming on………
PS: Wrote an interesting post a while back about variations in sleep cycles. Check it out here!
Writer Judi England is a yoga instructor and certified massage therapist working in Albany, N.Y. She also keeps the Albany Times Union's Holistic Health blog, where this piece appeared first.