naps

As some of you probably know Donald Trump prides himself on getting by with just four or five hours of sleep at night.

Yet history is full with powerful leaders and warriors such as Napoleon, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy who routinely napped in the afternoon, regardless of the crises swirling around them.

“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion, which even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces” -Churchill

And increasingly, science is siding with the nappers, with researchers finding that short sleeps not only are beneficial to drowsy individuals and the elderly but also are essential to public health, public safety and economic productivity.

An international team of neurologists recently published a study showing how sleep deprivation can disrupt brain cells ability to interact and communicate. A night of lost sleep can result in temporary mental lapses that impair memory and distort visual perceptions, according to the study published in early November in the journal Nature Medicine.

Itzhak Fried, the senior author of the study and a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Tel Aviv University, said in a statement that his team discovered that “starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly.”

In a recent study, University of Pennsylvania researchers found that a moderate nap in the afternoon coincided with improvements in people’s thinking and memory prowess and may have helped the brain perform as if it were five years younger. The study, published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, focused on 3,000 older people in China and examined whether those more inclined to take brief naps performed better on mental ability tests.

As a side note: Afternoon napping is prevalent among older adults in China and is considered part of a healthy lifestyle.

Scientists found that people who took a nap after lunch did better on the mental agility tests than those who did not sleep in the middle of the day. Overall, 60 percent of people in the study slept after lunch, for an average nap of 63 minutes. The study concluded that one hour was the optimal nap length and that people who had much longer or shorter rests — or no naps at all — performed up to six times worse on memory and math tests.

The latest research dovetails with longtime warnings about the dangers of insufficient sleep, which the National Institutes of Health says can lead to “physical and mental health problems, injuries, loss of productivity, and even a greater risk of death.”

Over the years, sleeplessness has quietly grown into a pervasive problem.

Without at least seven or eight hours of sleep at night, people face a tough slog getting through the day and leave themselves more vulnerable to illness. Scientists have linked sleep deficiency to many chronic health problems, including heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stoke, obesity and depression.

While the relationship between sleep deprivation and adverse health consequences is not fully understood a lot of it has to do with denying the body the rest it needs for healing and to refresh the neurons in the brain, as well as to fight off poisonous substances. “There are toxins that essentially accumulate in the brain that need to be cleared out with sleep” to avoid long-term threats to the immune system and cardiovascular functions, Alapat says.

The sleep-deprived also perform worse at learning, memory, and creative and analytic reasoning – a special problem for powerful chief executives and decision-makers. And nearly 40 percent of adults have reported falling asleep without meaning to at least once a month, according to NIH. That’s a recipe for car crashes, aviation and ship accidents, industrial mishaps and even medical malpractice by exhausted hospital interns.

In general, Alapat recommends that naps last no longer than 30 minutes. When a person falls asleep, the brain goes through several stages of sleep, ultimately leading to the deepest stage, known as rapid eye movement sleep, or REM. Once a person reaches that dreamy state, it becomes much more difficult to wake up clear-headed, refreshed and fully functioning.

The desperate need for brief R-and-R in the middle of the day has given rise to a workday sleep industry, in which office workers downtown or travelers at airports can buy some quiet time for “power naps.”

Alapat cautions that while naps may provide a short-term boost in alertness and performance, they can’t regularly make up for lost sleep.

“What we have found is that people who are perpetually sleep-deprived — who consistently report less than seven hours of sleep — tend to have adverse health consequences,” he said. “And so if you are having to use naps on a daily basis to make up for what appears to be chronic sleep deprivation, you are probably looking at a situation where you’re adversely affecting your health overall.”

As always thanks for reading and until next time.

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