If Science Says We’re Built For Taking Naps, Why Aren’t They More Widely Accepted?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— A night of little sleep has been shown to promote stress and weaken the immune system, but a new study finds that these effects can be relieved with a simple 30-minute nap.

Dr. Rafael Pelayo from Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine said this study looked at men who only slept for two hours in a given night. Pelayo said, while the power nap doesn’t completely make up for the lack of sleep, but that you’re better off having had the nap.

“What they found in this study was that if somebody was not getting enough sleep—two hours in this case, the body reacted as if it was in danger. So you’d have surges of noradrenaline, which is a fight or flight hormone, and when they took their naps that were just for 30 minutes, their levels came down.

Pelayo said aside from feeling better that this data was consistent with findings by NASA and Federal Aviation Administration for pilots to take a 40-minute nap and that that time limit was a restorative amount.

“However, if you take a longer nap, over an hour, you may feel worse, you may feel confused. Short naps is what we really want people to do,” he said.

According to Pelayo, the goal of napping is basically to regain alertness.

“I think for most Americans, if you think about what you should be doing on your lunch hour, you’re probably more sleep deprived than you are calorie deprived. If you could just catch a nap instead of catching lunch, people are going to feel a lot less grumpy. The whole idea of being up all day really doesn’t make much biological sense. We’re kind of built to take a nap in the afternoon. All of us get a little less alert right after lunch and then we get more alertness in the evening. We’re built to take naps. We’re meant to do that.”

Pelayo said if you’ve gotten a full night of sleep, it’s hard to take a nap, but that a 30-minute nap in the afternoon should revive you if you’re sleep deprived.

The only problem is does our culture accept these sleep demands?

“Most work places aren’t built for that. People say, ‘I don’t want you sleeping on the job.’”

Pelayo actually encourages employees asking their bosses if it’s quiet enough for them to do so, can they take a nap at their desk. If you’re a driver, he says to consider pulling over somewhere if it’s safe and take a nap.

You could sum up Dr. Pelayo’s campaign pretty easily with these words: It’s okay to take a nap.

More from Rebecca Corral
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