The scientific benefits of napping


Sometimes, when life gets too much, or you’ve had a busy day, you can’t help but engage in a little nap. Whether you are someone who enjoys a regular afternoon siesta or someone who will only nap when they are feeling unwell, here are some scientific benefits of enjoying a midday snooze.

A nap can boost your immune system

If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you will know that it can make you feel awful. A lack of sleep causes your body to release stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine which is more likely to weaken your immune system. If you struggle to get the recommended 8-10 hours a night, don’t be afraid of a little nap, as this can balance your levels and make it seem to your body as if you have had a full night’s sleep.

A caffeine nap helps surgeons

In our daily lives, we rarely have to concentrate on any task for as long as a surgeon does – and there is never as much at stake as there is during surgery. To keep their concentration and energy levels up, surgeons will take a short nap just after drinking a cup of coffee. Together, these will give them the boost needed to remain awake and alert for 24 hours.

Shorter, more frequent naps will keep you alert

Studies have shown that regular short naps during the day can help improve your mental alertness and performance. 10 minutes was the best length of time, whereas 30 minutes produced similar results, except there was a period of impaired alertness on waking. Stick to a 10-minute nape to avoid that groggy feeling!

Naps can help you learn

It has been proven that people are able to perform better on a visual texture-distinguishing task if they are being tested after a night of sleep, rather than immediately after they have learned it. A later study showed that the same results were possible after a 60-90 minute nap, which suggests that we can get the same learning benefits from a 90-minute nap as you would with a solid 8-hour sleep.

Naps can improve your physical stamina

Naps are not only useful for your mental processes but also your physical performances too. A 2007 study compared the sprinting times of 10 healthy men, before and after a post-lunch nap. The results showed that the sprinting times were better after the nap, and so it seems a short nap can help boost the performance of athletes.

Napping can improve your memory

Our night time slumber has many roles, one of which being to consolidate memory. A 2010 study wanted to test whether naps had the same ability, and so created a task around associative memory, asking 31 participants at 12 pm to memorize two sets of face-object photograph pairs. Half of the group were then split into those who had had a 90-minute daytime nap and those who had not. Those who had had the nap were much better at recalling the pairs.

So grab a blanket and snuggle up for a mid-afternoon nap. After all, it’s good for your health!