The art of the nap

napping

One of the biggest challenges of being a student is finding time to get enough sleep. This can be especially difficult if you are juggling a part-time job, extracurricular activities, or a sport. No matter how hard you try, it is not always realistic to hope for getting the recommended 8 hours each night of the week.

If humans were polyphasic sleepers, this might not be as much of a problem. However, we are one of the few mammals who get all our daily sleep at once. Nonetheless, cultures across the globe have adopted shorter sleeping periods that benefit our busy lives: the nap.

Historically, naps or midday resting periods were quite common in various cultures. For example, the Siesta is one of the most well-known examples of how napping plays a role in culture. Originating in Spain, its name means ‘the sixth hour’, which refers to the sixth hour after sunrise: noon. Spanish influence has long since spread it around the world to places such as Greece, Mexico, Nigeria, and The Philippines. Beyond the Siesta, countries such as Italy and China have socially integrated nap times where business shut down and workers go home for lunch and to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Although napping has helped to establish a slower, more peaceful pace of life, it has also been observed in professional studies to lead to an increased risk of diabetes as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol. From a healthcare standpoint, napping is meant for those who get less sleep at night or those who endure intense physical exhaustion such as labourers or professional athletes.

Nowadays, research supports napping as a healthy way to reduce stress, improve work performance and avoid sleep deprivation, as long as it lasts no longer than 30 minutes. Staying within the 20-30 minute margin allows significant reduction in fatigue without interfering with your normal sleep cycle. In general, napping longer than this can damage your health, as your body is more at risk of waking suddenly. Additionally, they should not be taken too early or too late in the day, or else it will hinder the quality of the nap. Just after 12:00 p.m. is the ideal time for those who sleep during the night (dusk to dawn).

The National Sleep Foundation actually recognizes three classifications of naps:

  • Preparatory naps: before an event which may keep you awake for much later in the night.
  • Emergency naps: taken when your performance of an important task drops to the point of concern because of sleep deprivation.
  • Habitual naps: a nap practiced at the same time every day (common for children, seniors, and professional athletes)

Napping could be the solution for a sleep-deprived student’s life. However, it is an art form: be mindful of the recommendations by health professionals to assure it will benefit you.

-Ben Johnson, Contributor

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