The Benefits of Embracing the Siesta
If you’re a snorer, or if you sleep with one, the amount of time you get healthful, restorative sleep is interrupted often many times throughout the night. Snoring causes daytime fatigue and can also lead to numerous serious health concerns. However research conducted over the past few years has discovered that afternoon naps — even those as short as 10 minutes — can have significant benefits on health and brain function. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, perhaps it’s time to embrace the siesta.
“I count it as a certainty that in paradise, everyone naps.” —Tom Hodgkinson
Daytime fatigue caused by a lack of sleep affects ones cognitive functions including impairing memory and concentration. It affects ones mood, causing irritability and even anger. It also impairs motor functions such as driving or operating machinery, which can lead to accidents. Even more, stress on the body from sleep deprivation can lead to heart issues, high blood pressure, obesity and stroke.
Often people who suffer from daytime fatigue try to wade through the day, thinking that a nap might interfere with their next night’s sleep. But numerous research studies published over the last few years have shown that naps are a healthy way to repair the mood, body, and mind of the sleep deprived. In cultures where siestas are common practice, scientists have discovered that the population in general has higher longevity than those cultures that don’t nap.
For example, the Department of Psychology at the University of California performed a study1 that showed that college students, using a face recognition task, reacted at a higher negative rate of anger and fear emotions throughout the day when they were sleep deprived at night. However, when they took a nap that included REM (rapid eye movement), their negative emotions were reversed, and they had even higher rates of happy expressions.
In another study from the University of Haifa2, researchers found that napping for ninety minutes speeds up the napper’s long term memory consolidation, which is the ability to remember “how-to” do or learn a task. Surprisingly, the hour and a half nap seems to improve this function as much as a regular 6-8 hours of regular nighttime sleep.
Napping’s benefit to the heart is also clear. In a study3 of adults who regularly take midday naps, common in Mediterranean and Latin American cultures, it was found that of the 23,681 Greek adults studied over a period of many years, 37% had lower rates of death related to the heart. This was especially true for working men, although the reason it was not definitive for women is because fewer died during the study. Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, the senior researcher and author of the study, believes that people should even take an occasional nap to help their hearts.
- A Role for REM Sleep in Recalibrating the Sensitivity of the Human Brain to Specific Emotions,Ninad Gujar, Steven Andrew McDonald, Masaki Nishida and Matthew P. Walker, Department of Psychology, University of California, Tolman Hall 3331, Berkeley, CA 94720-1650, USA., Oxford Journals, Life Sciences & Medicine, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 115-123.
- Daytime Sleep Condenses the Time Course of Motor Memory Consolidation, Avi Karni, Dr. Maria Korman, Julien Doyon, Julia Doljansky, Julie Carrier & Yaron Dagan, of the Center for Brain and Behavior Research at the University of Haifa, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv. Published in the scientific journal, Nature Neuroscience.
- Siesta in Healthy Adults and Coronary Mortality in the General Population,Drs Naska, Trichopoulou, Psaltopoulou, and Trichopoulos and Ms Oikonomou, Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece); Hellenic Health Foundation, Athens (Dr Trichopoulou); and Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass (Dr Trichopoulos).
>> back to top
Comments are closed