Friday, November 5, 2010

5 Unbelievable Benefits of Taking a Nap

All of us have experienced first-hand the irresistible wile of the afternoon nap. When I was still teaching at the Ateneo, I was often assigned after-lunch classes; I'm sure you can imagine how challenging it had been for me to make my students focus on our lesson as they faced an often losing fight against midday drowsiness. But according to several studies, it may be best if we all just give in to the temptation and just sleep when we feel like it. Here are some of the most important reasons why:

1. Napping relieves you of stress. That's the most direct and obvious benefit. Taking a short nap when you feel tired or stressful is the best way to recharge your body and mind.

2. Your mind gets prepped to learn more things. The part of the brain that receives and stores new information may be likened to a 90's hard drive that you need to defragment from time to time. Around eight hours after waking up in the morning, the brain gets cluttered with all kinds of stuff; taking a nap at this time is just like defragmenting your hard drive, removing the clutter and providing room for new information.

3. Your memory gets refreshed and you become smarter. Many of us believe that the best way to prepare for an exam is to take in copious amounts of caffeine to fend off sleep and hit the books. But in an experiment performed at University of California San Diego involving two groups, one given a caffeine pill and the other asked to take a nap, the sleep group performed significantly better in memory-related tasks than the other group. This just means the trip to Starbucks for a group study all-nighter with your friends may be the more expensive and ineffective alternative to staying home and sleeping early.

4. You get to be more alert and productive. Taking a short afternoon nap, especially after a poor night of sleep, will make you feel more alert afterwards. Soon after, you'll find yourself in a better mood and better suited to perform different kinds of tasks, both mental and physical.

5. Naps make you more healthy. Two studies housed at the Sleep and Psychological Disorder Laboratory at University of California Berkeley show that getting a good amount of sleep is tied to a better immune system and metabolic control. In another study involving 23,681 individuals living in Greece, researchers found that those who took naps several times a week had a significantly lower risk of heart disease.

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