Naps are not an indulgence or a sign of laziness, but a simple way of rejuvenating your mental and physical well-being.
Here are four reasons why you should find a time and place for a brief daytime snooze.
1. You probably need it.
Many people today are sleep deprived at moderate to severe levels. Long work hours, busy personal lives, noisy urban environments, and the stimulation of various personal devices are all making it harder than ever to get as much sleep as our minds and bodies require. A quick siesta cannot make up for all the sleep you’ve lost, but taking a nap whenever you have the chance will protect your health and diminish the long-term effects of sleep deprivation.
2. You may be a naturally polyphasic sleeper.
Millions of years ago, our primate ancestors lived in trees, and they were polyphasic sleepers, meaning they slept at multiple times across the day and night. When our species emerged we came down from the trees and became mostly monophasic sleepers, with one major period of sleep during the night. But some humans have always had a strong innate tendency toward a polyphasic sleep cycle, and this is true for some people today, too. Such people naturally need to take naps at various points during the day. They are not lazy or slothful, they just have biological constitutions that function best with polyphasic sleep. Unfortunately, they often have to conform with the work schedules of a monophasic society, just as naturally left-handed people have to adapt to the architecture and design of a right-handed world.
3. You can boost your performance with a well-timed nap.
The greatest athlete-napper in the world right now has to be Mikaela Shiffrin, the gold-medal winning alpine skier from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. She regularly naps between runs on race days, keeping her mind and body at maximal freshness. Many top-level athletes also give themselves the opportunity to nap before a competition. For example, the basketball player J.J. Reddick of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a nap between 2 and 4 pm every day before an evening game. When he wakes up, he begins a pre-game routine that leads him right to tip-off. These athletes know the power generated by healthful sleep, and they have learned to focus that power on optimizing their performance. You can apply this same principle in your own life, by letting yourself nap before facing a major challenge or task that requires you to be at your best.
4. You can explore lucid dreaming.
Many people find it easier to enter into lucid dreaming during a nap than during a regular night’s sleep. (A “lucid” dream is one in which you know you are dreaming within the dream). During a nap the mind is still fairly close to waking consciousness, which allows for more cross-fertilization between different modes of awareness. This is actually a widespread practice through history for people seeking creative insights and alternative perspectives towards waking life challenges. Artists, scientists, and advanced meditators have all drawn inspiration from brief, lucid spells of daytime sleep that open new ways of looking at reality upon awakening.
This post first appeared in Psychology Today, May 7, 2018.