Naps get a bad rap – especially when they happen at work. But research suggests that kind of thinking is completely antiquated.
Extra sleep can help boost your memory, reduce stress and enhance your sex life, research suggests. Plus, there’s the whole “naps feel awesome” part.
So here’s the scientific support you need to feel 100% comfortable spending a little extra quality time with your pillow today.
1. You’re probably sleep deprived right now
According to the National Sleep Foundation recommendations, you should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep. If you’re like most people, you fall shy of that target: On average, South Africans only get just over six hours of sleep a night – the lowest average sleep time in the world according to a report published by sleep tracking app, Sleep Cycle, in 2015.
“If getting enough sleep isn’t possible, then napping is the next best thing,” says Dr Abid Malik, medical director of the Sleep Disorder Centre at Orlando Health-South Seminole Hospital.
2. It will make you a genius
A team of German neuropsychologists found that napping after learning something can make your memory of that information five times better than if you had stayed awake afterward.
The researchers say your brain’s ability to go into a tranquil state during sleep is linked to your ability to remember. Mandatory naptime at the office? That’s just good management.3. It only takes a few minutes
A 15- to 20-minute power nap is all you need to wake up feeling like a new man, says Dr Malik. The chemicals in our brain rebalance as you sleep, he says, making you feel more alert – even if you only doze for a few.
3. It keeps you from pigging out
The less you sleep, the more likely you are to gain weight, a Stanford University study found. Researchers discovered that a lack of sleep triggers your body’s production of the hormone gherkin, which makes you want to eat more, and lowers levels of the hormone leptin, which tells you when you’re full.
4. It’s the laziest form of stress management
Stress sends your blood pressure through the roof – which can cause heart disease, stroke and even erection problems. But research from Allegheny College suggests that catching a daytime snooze may help your body handle anxiety.
Scientists let half of the study participants doze, and then gave them all a tough exam. The nappers had lower blood pressure after the test than the people who had stayed awake all day. Researchers think shuteye speeds up your heart’s ability to recover from stress, helping your blood pressure to go down in the process.
5. It helps you recover from an all-nighter
Lack of sleep can leave you feeling stressed out and can even make you sick, research finds. But you’re not totally screwed after you pull a late night – as long as you catch some mini-snoozes.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that men who took two half-hour naps the day after getting just two hours of sleep were able to reset their stress-hormone levels, leaving them less frazzled and healthier than those who never napped.
6. It protects your ticker
Just one night of bad sleep can make your blood vessels less flexible, according to a British study. That can raise your risk of heart disease, which can, well, kill you. Scientists think that when your brain is wiped, it signals to your blood vessels to become stiff and unresponsive. The good news: Study participants’ vessels went back to normal after getting enough rest.
7. It could be the difference between life and death
People who sleep less than six hours per night have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity and heart disease, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists think people who sleep less are more stressed out, which may contribute to the development of those fatal conditions.
8. You’ll have laser focus this afternoon
A study from the University of California, Berkeley found that the more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish our brains become. The solution? Nap. Study participants who took a siesta during a day of learning were able to pay better attention later that day. Those who missed naptime were more easily distracted and became worse at learning as the day went on.
9. Tired guys can be jerks
Sleep deprivation makes you more likely to stereotype, research published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology finds. A lack of sleep depletes your self-control, so the less you sleep, the worse you become at filtering the prejudices you know are wrong, researchers say. Basically, it makes you an a-hole. Catch some extra shuteye to boost your niceness rating.
10. It could keep you from going insane
According to research from the University of California at Irvine, sleep deprivation may increase your odds of developing fake memories.
In the study, people who didn’t get enough shuteye were more likely to report that they saw imaginary details in photos – when they actually had just read about those details in a separate narrative afterward. People who got enough sleep beforehand, however, didn’t screw it up. Researchers say a lack of sleep jumbles up the information stored in your brain, causing confusion.
11. You’ll read women better
Men who are short on shuteye are more likely to wrongfully assume a woman is into them, says a study published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Researchers found that sleep deprivation narrows your attention span, slows your brain’s ability to process information and hurts your short-term memory, making you interpret her innocent glance as a meaningful stare.
12. You’ll be a boss behind the wheel
Lack of sleep makes you a liability on the road – even when you don’t feel tired, says a study from the University of Pennsylvania. Scientists discovered that people who slept six or fewer hours a night were almost three times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than those who logged seven hours.
Drowsy driving may be an even bigger public safety issue than drunk driving, the researcher says, since there’s no way for authorities to judge whether you’ve had enough sleep.
13. It lowers your diabetes risk
Not getting enough shuteye can raise your risk of developing diabetes, according to research from the University of Chicago. In the study, healthy men who were restricted to 4.5 hours of sleep for four days had more fatty acids in their blood – which can eventually cause your blood sugar to soar – than when they slept for 8.5 hours. Researchers say you should be able to reverse the effects by getting more sleep.
14. You’ll be more fit
Taking a nap could actually boost your performance in the gym. A study from Stanford University found that athletes who got more sleep over a three-week period achieved faster sprint times, longer endurance, a lower heart rate and better workouts in general. Researchers say that most athletes don’t log enough shuteye to recover from their workouts. That can mess with their minds, mood and reaction times, but scientists say getting more shuteye can reverse those effects.
15. It may help prevent dementia
A lack of sleep may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, says research from Johns Hopkins University. Study participants who didn’t catch enough shuteye had greater deposits of B-Amyloid, a plaque associated with Alzheimer’s, in their brains. While you sleep, your brain essentially cleans itself, removing those plaques, the researchers say.
16. Your skin will thank you
Beauty sleep is legit, and guys need it too, according to a study from University Hospitals Case Medical Centre. Sleep-deprived subjects had more fine lines, uneven skin tone and loose skin. Researchers say that staying up all night can make you age faster by weakening your skin’s ability to repair itself.