Although the Great Resignation following the pandemic has shifted the focus a bit, we still live in a society that highly values productivity. Even work-life balance isn’t possible without getting things done efficiently. And this is probably giving Millennial to Gen Z dumplings, but I came of an age when “hustle” and “girlboss” were coined. (Did you see how I tried to speak your language there?) So napping placidly in the middle of the work day doesn’t come easily to me. If I do—and I can, since I work at home—I sure don’t share that with my colleagues and work connections!
Cognitive benefits of napping
But the latest study that measures the cognitive impact of regular daytime napping has stopped me in my tracks. A new study by the University College London researchers has found that there is a causal link between regular napping and brain volume. The scientists measured the genetic likelihood of napping frequency and total brain volume among more than 35,000 subjects aged 40–65. They found that the brain volume difference between people programmed to be nappers and those who are not was equivalent to 2.6–6.5 years of aging. Wow.
Study author Dr. Victoria Garfield said, “I hope studies such as this one showing the health benefits of short naps can help to reduce any stigma that still exists around daytime napping.” Just because you need to take a siesta doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, it makes you a smart person (literally!!).
Earlier studies have shown what we all have experienced anecdotally in the past: Naps help you perform better cognitively in the hours following. Personally, I’ve also found that studying intensely and then falling asleep helps me remember facts better than if I had stayed awake (or slept poorly). This is because during your sleep, your brain forms and maintains neural pathways that help you remember and learn information. Studies also suggest that your brain’s toxic buildup is removed during sleep.
Ready to start napping? Here’s how to do it most effectively.
How much should you sleep?
Just because naps are beneficial for brain volume doesn’t mean you should skimp on your nighttime sleep. Be sure to get 7–9 hours of sleep at night, and supplement that with a short nap of 30 minutes or less. If my schedule allows for it, I like to give myself a break in the late afternoon when my energy is lowest. For a pitta like me, that’s 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Avoid running on coffee and when your appointed nap hour comes, set the alarm and relax by listening to a sound machine. This is also when I might do a little light reading before dozing off. I find that even an hour of reading, relaxing, and napping helps me come back stronger later in the day. Be sure to wake up in time so that you don’t end up staying awake late.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Laura Chouette via Unsplash