With a couple of four-day holiday weekends approach, many sleep-deprived adults are likely harboring a secret desire: To take a nap during the day.
As it turns out, new research scores another one for such nappers as Winston Churchill. A City University of New York study presented this fall at the Society of Neuroscience annual meeting revealed that a well-placed nap can help boost a sophisticated type of memory that allows you to see the big picture and be more creative.
Sounds good, where’s my pillow? “Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember,” said Dr. William Fishbein, the lead author of the study.
One of the most important sleep phases for memory and retaining your lessons from the day is what researchers call “slow-wave sleep” that comes earlier in a 90-minute cycle than the rapid-eye movement or REM sleep that produces a dream state. When sleep gets fragmented from aging, stress/worry or sleep apena (the worst case in which breath stops for 30 seconds or so), it can wreak havoc with our ability to think analytically the next day.
In fact, sleep researchers are focusing more on sleep quality than duration, which is in part why a nap can be so effective. If you sleep soundly during a nap—very easy if you have a lazy day-holiday at hand—you can go a long way toward being refreshed and restored. Other research shows that our body’s biorhythmic cycle leads us to feel the most tired during the day at roughly 3 to 4 p.m. That makes anytime between 2 and 3 as a prime nap time. If you wake up earlier than most, then 1 to 1:30 range might be most effective. In any case, if you need to nap within less than 7 to 8 hours upon waking, that likely means you are sleep-deprived and need to get more quality sleep at night.
Don’t underestimate the power of sound sleep (OK, I am guilty too of staying up too late and getting up early, all in the same short night). It can power-boost your memory and creativity, plus a growing body of research shows that fragmented and disrupted sleep can suppress the birth of new brain cells in adults for weeks, even after a person returns to a normal sleep pattern.
Yikes, I mean it this time…where’s my pillow?
Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.