The power of naps….

If you exercise on a regular basis and try to juggle work and life as well, chances are you do not get all the sleep that you need.

Did you know that when it comes to sleep patterns, mammals fall into two distinct categories. More than 85% of mammals are known to be polyphasic sleepers meaning they sleep for short periods of time throughout the day.

Humans fall into the other 15% called monophasic sleepers meaning that the day is divided into two distinct parts, one called the wake period and the other the sleep period.

However, it is still not clear whether this is what our natural sleep pattern should be given the fact that the way our lives have been structured for hundreds of years requires one to work and perform chores throughout the day. How would one naturally behave if you didn’t have that requirement?

Well guess what? I will not going into the why or why not here but rather approach the subject of the power of naps.

Let’s face it, in todays world, who can really get 8 hours of sleep a day?  There are some studies to suggest that 8 hours is just an arbitrary number that it may be more or less depending on the individual.  But one thing is for sure, being deprived in the amount of sleep your body is asking for can have negative effects on your health.


Sleep Deprivation…

There are two types of sleep deprivation.  One is Total Sleep Deprivation where you go for long periods, days even, without sleep.  This type creates havoc in your mind and body where your brain will eventually shut down all functions of your body and fall asleep in order to stay alive.  Total Sleep Deprivation is even used with interrogation techniques to break down the individual.

The other type is the one most people suffer, Partial Sleep Deprivation.  This is where the body suffers loss of sleep in increments of time, day by day, until the person starts experiencing detrimental side affects.

If you are the early morning athlete getting up at 5AM to run or go to the gym, you may run out of gas by mid afternoon. By the same token, getting up at 6:30AM to get to work then train after work also creates a toll on your body if you do not get enough sleep.  Individuals that exercise and train hard need extra recuperation for their bodies to repair and replenish themselves, so bad sleep patterns are magnified even more than the sedentary person!


Types of naps…

So how can one combat partial sleep deprivation?  Studies have found that short naps can have amazing recuperative effects on the mind and body.  Normally there are three kinds of naps:

Planned Naps is taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. A good example is if you are planning a late night out like New Years and you want to make sure that you are awake to enjoy the festivities. You may take a planned nap late afternoon or early evening.

Emergency Naps happened when you are very tired and cannot continue with what you are currently doing. One common type of emergency napping is when you have been driving for a long period of time and you can no longer focus.  You pull off the side of the road, exit or rest stop to take a nap and refresh yourself.

Habitual Naps is when a person takes a nap around the same time each day.  Children are quite often taught to do this as they are growing yet for some reason are weaned off of it as they become adults.


The Five Stages of Sleep…

Before going into how long one should nap and when, one should know about the different stages of sleep and what each stage does to the body.  Sleep has been broken down into stages of which not every may go through each stage every time they go to sleep…

Stage 1, this is the beginning of the sleep cycle also known as light sleeping. It is the transition of being awake to being asleep and usually lasts 5-10 minutes.

Stage 2, you body temperature starts to decrease and your heart rate slows down. You brain is producing fast brain wave activity. This stage lasts about 20 minutes.

Stage 3, the transition between light sleep and deep sleep and your brain is now producing slow waves.

Stage 4, this is now deep sleep and also where sleepwalking is most likely to occur. This stage lasts about 30 minutes.

Stage 5, increased respiration rate and brain activity occurs in this stage along with rapid eye movement. This is the stage where dreams occur and you may go through several of these cycles


 So how long should I nap for and when?

Studies have shown that a 20 to maybe 30 minute nap is ideal for restoring the body’s energy reserves. In fact, you have more energy and alertness napping for 20 minutes in the middle of the day than if you would have slept in an additional 20 minutes that morning!

Why is 20 minutes so important? Because this will put you in the middle of stage 2 sleep thus creating a boost of energy and stamina. If you napped into stage 3 sleep, you start getting into the slow brain wave portion of your sleep and if you were to wake up you would feel groggy and lethargic.

So it is very important that if you do take a nap, to take the proper duration nap otherwise you may be defeating the purpose of why you took a nap to begin with!

Nap time is based on many variables, mostly life and work related. Whether it is during a break in the day, lunch time, or what have you, make sure it is a place where you are comfortable, can make the room or area as dark as reasonably possible, and quiet as well.

Taking these 20 minute sleep breaks will make you understand why they call it the Power Nap.  It is like a shot of adrenaline that restores your body’s energy level, fills up your sleep bank account, and allows you to perform at a higher level than if you deprived yourself of such.

Happy napping as you strive to be…. Fit Forlife!

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