Why Naps are Really, Really Good For You.
I have a theory that we would all be happier as a whole, if we took the time everyday to nap.
In Greece, even in the big, buzzing cities—things shut down from 2-5 pm.
Napping, eating—essentially not working and resting.
I remember traveling from my father’s small village in the mountains to Rethymno to buy a local sim card and cell phone.
When I arrived by bus, all the shops began to close.
I was flabbergasted—it was 2pm and I had money I wanted to spend.
They waved me off, and told me to come back at five.
When I asked why everything was closing—the shopkeeper laughed, smiled and said, “To eat, to nap!”
So, I retired my ambition and joined the masses. Taking refuge with the old men playing backgammon and drinking coffee so strong and grainy I could feel the hair growing on my chest with each sip.
I leaned back and watched the day laze around, listened to music in the streets, children running and laughing. Motorcycles breezed by, the sun yawned—the town was calm.
I tried to imagine a large city like New York shutting down for three hours a day.
People panicking, yelling, trying to make it all move—arguing who was the most important, what was the most urgent.
The shop owners telling them to chill out, pull out a chair and have a coffee.
We are a “one click” “now” “instant gratification” “do” generation.
Traveling to other countries and being told, “The bus will come, when it comes”, doesn’t always go down so well. I also think this is incredibly healthy for our well-being.
We are wound-up energizer bunnies, drowning in caffeine and busy—forgetting to stop and take a breath for ourselves.
I have a friend who is a wildly successful chef/business man/entrepreneur. He is so excited about cooking, creating, people, living-it-all that he rarely stops moving.
I enrolled him in Greek School this summer.
He would wake up at five am, climb a mountain (no really), work a good six hours and then come to my cabin around noon.
I would give him a scalp and neck massage to let some of the “go, go, go” physically.
Send him upstairs into my bedroom and let the logs, the white cotton sheets and the creek put him to sleep.
I would paint, write, read, exist quietly downstairs on my deck and after an hour grind beans from a local Sunshine Coast coffee shop, put the French press on and wake him gently.
I would hand him a coffee in a mug, give him a hug and send him off to “go, go, go” some more.
In exchange, he cooked me beautiful food, fell trees, stocked my woodshed full of cedar and birch and fed my soul right back.
It was one of the sweetest exchanges I’ve had.
I joked lightly about opening a real life “Greek School” in the heart of a hectic metropolis.
Letting people in suits take off their ties, shoes, take a shower, get a 15 minute massage, have a nap, do some yoga, meditate, drink a tea or coffee and then carry on.
We could do a daily rate or a monthly for those who need consistent discipline in resting.
For those who scoff that napping is for the unambitious, uninspired and the lazy— Edison, JFK, Churchill, and Napoleon were all religious nappers.
A NASA study showed that a 40-minute nap increases alertness by 100%.
Other studies have found that a 20-minute catnap is more effective than two cups of coffee or a short stint of exercise.
Sleep deprivation leads to an excess amount of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone. Catching some zzzz’s and a siesta will help reduce Cortisol levels and tranquillo you out.
A study done with Greeks found that those that took a half hour nap at least three times a week had 37% less risk of dying from a heart-related condition.
Napping is also cheaper than Starbucks.
Some people struggle with how long to nap for—claiming to feel lethargic and less productive after longer naps, or being unable to sleep that night due to their siesta.
Well, naps will not affect your nighttime sleep schedule as long as you wake from your nap three hours before bedtime.
If you need a power nap and don’t have 90 minutes to spare, don’t fret—you can nap 6 minutes or 20 minutes and still reap brain/energy/relaxation benefits.
Warning: If you set your alarm for 20 minute nap—honor this, or you may enter the sleep stage known as “slow wave” and will come out groggier than refreshed.
Or maybe try a “caffeine nap”. Yes, this is a thing.
Researchers at Loughborough University did experiments to find the best way to improve the alertness of drivers and found the “caffeine nap” to be the most effective method. You down a cup of coffee or other caffeine filled beverage and then lay down for a 15-20 minute nap.
The coffee will go to work immediately to remove adenosine, a chemical that makes you sleepy. The caffeine will kick in ever so sweetly, right around the 20-minute mark when you are waking.
This is a good nap suggestion for people who are tempted to snooze the day away and stretch the nap into a second sleep as the caffeine will kick in after a little while and make napping longer than the 15-20 difficult.
When you rise, again, you will feel ready to take on the world from your sneaky post siesta caffeine high five.
Make one of your daily resolutions be to carve time in your day to get your nap on.
It will make you like your January more and give you that second energy boost needed to shovel the shit out of that sidewalk.
Nap Tip: Play this song after you awake, and move your limbs around to get your second refreshed start on the day.