Joy Magazine

Benefits of a daytime shutdown

It's cool to nap.

If it seems like you're dodging work to close your eyes for a little, midday siesta, just remember: A wee 10- or 15-minute nap renews you to be in a better mood and do even more work — and do it later into the day.

But how many workplaces provide cots for some quick shut-eye? Not many, and don't look for that perk to find its way into benefits packages any time soon.

However, self-employed people, stay-at-home moms and others who have control over their work schedules say that when they start nodding and doing face-plants on their keyboards, it's oh-so-sweet to fling themselves onto their beds and pass out like there is no tomorrow.

Blacksmith Jason Roy Couch finds his work demanding (and hot) enough that he naps "right after lunch for 30 minutes, then I feel MUCH better. Nope, no guilt. It lets my lunch soak in before I go back to the physical stuff — blacksmithing!"

Not surprisingly, the big nappers are children and the elderly while those in their 20s through 40s power through work all day and save their slumbers for the dark hours, says Michael Schwartz, insomnia-education coordinator for Rogue Valley Sleep Center.

Schwartz says he suspects that some in the active 20-to-50 set have sleep-disturbance issues, such as sleep apnea or restless-leg syndrome, if they often feel the need to nap. But he acknowledges that in our circadian (daily cycle) rhythm, it's normal to have more energy in the morning and feel sleepy in the afternoon.

While it's very rare for an employer to offer nap times, it occasionally happens, he says. One example is workers on graveyard shifts who are allowed a nap break to refresh themselves.

A great mentor for napping is her cat, says Ashland dancer and counselor Carola Marashi, who responded to a Facebook query asking local nappers for their input. "I nap when I'm drained or depressed, and I know it helps me revive, reboot or just sink further into my subconscious where creativity lies. I usually feel more energetic afterward. I nap usually less than an hour because long ones make me feel groggy."

Loyd Hubbard notes, "I take a nap most afternoons, about 30 minutes or less, and I wake up feeling refreshed and hungry."

Ashland therapist Annie VonKaesborg says, "I grab a 20-minute power nap when I can, and it feels great!"

The idea of a nap is to attain light sleep or deep rest, but not to enter the deep sleep that starts about 45 minutes in, says Schwartz.

"You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping," writes Sara C. Mednick, author of "Take a Nap! Change Your Life," in an article on www.webmd.com. "You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance. That's what most people really need to stave off sleepiness and get an energy boost."

The length of one's nap — and the type of sleep one gets — helps determine the brain-boosting benefits. The 20-minute "power nap," sometimes called the "stage 2 nap," is good for alertness and motor-learning skills such as typing and playing the piano, says Mednick.

Longer naps help boost memory and enhance creativity, and slow-wave sleep — napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes — is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions.

As for the guilt some people report in our Facebook query, try zapping that by saying you're only doing this so you can work more.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


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