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How Napping Can Help Adults

In human culture, it is expected than children of a certain age nap regularly. When it comes to adults, the jury is still out. While many proclaim that an afternoon power-nap makes their busy lives possible, most offices do not encourage nap breaks. But as studies continue to state that napping can be beneficial for both children and adults, attitudes may start changing.

Recent studies have shown that both night and day sleeping can help improve memory function. This seems to correlate with both kids and adults. Another study recently at the Beijing University of Technology showed that athletes who nap after training tended to have better mental and physical recovery. Even more interesting was the study done by University of California researcher Sara Mednick comparing caffeine to naps. The study found that 60-90 minute naps improved memory while caffeine (about as much as one cup of coffee’s worth) either did not affect memory or worsened it.

All of this research has led to a few employers to allow napping during the work day. HubSpot, a software company in Massachusetts, installed a designated napping room for its employees. The new space has been a success in the office, especially for jetlagged employees or new parents. Alison Elwothy, a company representative said, “People are really excited to use it and haven’t abused the policy at all.”

The ideal time to nap is between 2pm and 4pm, as that follows our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms. A good rule to follow is that you want to nap six to eight hours after initially waking up. The amount of time you spend taking a nap depends on your desired outcome of the nap. A 60-90 minutes nap will bring you to REM sleep, giving you the most restorative nap possible. On the other hand, one Australian study suggested that a simple 10 minute nap per day is enough to recover from a late-night the evening before.

Will more American employers begin to design nap spaces in their corporate offices? Probably not quite yet, especially with our fast-paced culture and near-obsession with productivity. But the findings are interesting and may eventually lead to some executives turning their heads. Additionally, some researchers are concerned with how long it takes the brain to get online after sleep. In the meantime, you can always use the research to maximize your cognition with a quick power nap over your lunch. Just don’t get busted drooling on your laptop, or it could be lights out.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Trevor King

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