Many employers may not want to hear this and they may also disagree with this suggestion, but new evidence suggests that getting at least 20 minutes of shuteye in the afternoon can boost one’s performance at work or at any task one is delegated to do after it.
Remember how energised you used to feel after taking siestas when you were in secondary school? Experts say there is no need for us to discard this healthy habit, as research has shown that afternoon naps improve one’s ability to remember things and also boost one’s mental performance. In fact, they say no matter the nature of one’s job, there is always room to rest for at least 20 minutes each day.
A study conducted by physicians at the Scotland Health Centre on 1,000 Scottish men has won more thumbs-up for this lifestyle change.
According to the scientists, the participants who napped regularly for 10, 20 and 30-minute periods had a better performance on cognitive and vigilance tests conducted on them in the subsequent two and a half hours.
They were also more active for the rest of the day, compared to those who did not take any nap during the day.
Healthy living expert, Temisan Orekunrin, says the findings of the Scottish scientists send a loud but clear message that the body, especially the brain, needs rest for it to function optimally.
Orekunrin describes the brain as an efficient machine that needs to take a break because it cannot go on 24 hours a day.
She says,“ No machine can work for long hours without taking a break; that is how the brain cannot go on because it is not only doing some mental work, it is doing many physical work too. The nerves in the brain need to be calm for them to receive new messages sometimes.
“You don’t keep giving it information that it cannot process. Many people may see it as being lazy, but we all know how refreshed and ready to take on difficult tasks we feel on days that we had mid-day naps. It is better to make it regular, so the brain can adjust to it.”
Also, experts at the National Sleep Foundation, after a study on napping on military pilots and truck drivers, concluded that taking afternoon naps improves alertness and increases one’s speed in tackling difficult challenges.
The scientists found out that pilots and drivers who took 40-minute naps regularly performed better than those who didn’t, while they scored 100 per cent in alertness.
The NSF states, “While you may not be flying a plane or driving a truck, we recommend that everybody that drives daily should take at least 30 minutes’ nap, especially between 2-3pm each day.
“It will reduce their risk of getting involved in crashes or other road mishaps by at least 50 per cent because they will not feel drowsy or tired and they will be more alert, a very important skill every driver must have.”
It is not just about the brain, Consultant Cardiologist, Dr. Tosin Akinsanya, says that afternoon sleep helps to calm the blood vessels, and improving blood circulation to vital organs such as the heart.
He notes, “Nature has devised sleep as the medication for stress. If you don’t sleep well, everything in your body becomes stressed out. Your cells, tissues and organs become stressed out too. But a short nap will help lower blood pressure levels and reduce your risk for cardiovascular stress that can otherwise lead to heart diseases.”
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that those who have the “siesta habit” have a reduced risk of suffering heart attacks or any heart diseases by 37 per cent.
It states, “Daytime sleep reduces blood pressure levels, reducing your risk of developing hypertension and stroke. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure now, ensure that you take 30-minute nap during the day every day.
“If you have any heart disease right now, you must serve siesta, no matter how busy you are. This period is the window for your blood vessels to rest.”
Although the benefits of naps are many, not everyone finds it easy to fall asleep in the middle of the day. There are some simple changes you can make to your work or daily schedule that would allow you form this habit.
Orekunrin explains that naps can be grouped into three different categories, such as the planned napping, which involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. She notes, “You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier.”
There is the emergency napping, which she says occurs when one is suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity one was originally engaged in. This type of nap, she notes, can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery.
Habitual napping is practised when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each day. According to her, this is the most beneficial of the three.
It is not as hard as you think; you can spend 20 minutes of your lunch break to serve siesta. Better still, make it a habit, beginning with this weekend.