5 good reasons to take an afternoon nap

A cat napping.
Photo by gornostay/Shutterstock

If you’ve ever felt guilty about dosing off in the hammock before you finished raking the lawn, it’s time to change that. After all, it’s more important to take care of yourself than your yard, and according to research, there are countless health benefits to taking a nap. In fact, if you’re not already making the time to wind-down midday, now might be the time to start. Here are five good reasons to take an afternoon nap.

It will keep your mind sharp

From crossword puzzles to Sudoku, there are all sorts of tricks to keep your mind sharp as you age, and as it turns out, napping is one of them. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, showed that the more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish our brains get. These researchers also found that an hour-long nap is often all it takes to dramatically boost and restore your brain power. That reinforced their hypothesis that sleep is required to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage and make room for new information. But napping doesn’t just improve your ability to retain data, according to Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold, napping can also make people “more effective problem solvers,” helping them to “separate important information from extraneous details.”

You’ll look better

When someone says they’re getting their “beauty sleep,” it’s more than just a turn of phrase. Research conducted in a sleep laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden, found that people appear less attractive and less healthy when they’re sleep deprived. At least that’s what researchers found after 65 untrained observers were asked to rate the attractiveness of people after an average night’s sleep, and again after participants were kept awake for 31 hours.

You’ll feel better

Although it’s never advised to skip out on a solid night’s sleep, for many it’s a fact of life. According to the United States’ National Health Survey, nearly three in 10 adults report that they sleep an average of six hours or less each night. But according to a recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, fitting in a short midday nap could help combat the effects of sleep deprivation, which has been linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. Their data showed that a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a poor night’s sleep by relieving stress and bolstering the immune system of participants who only slept a couple of hours the night before.

It can keep you slim

Sleep deprivation has long been linked to overeating and unhealthy food choices, but recent research published in the journal SLEEP showed just how close the connection is. According to the study, a lack of sleep amplifies and extends our internal chemical signals that enhance the joy of eating, especially when it comes to sweet, salty or high-fat snack foods. That means that “if you have a Snickers bar, and you’ve had enough sleep you can control your natural response…but if you’re sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired,” explains Erin Hanlon, one of the study’s authors and research associate in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at the University of Chicago.

It’s been linked to lower blood pressure

Sneaking in some extra shuteye won’t only help you look and feel better, it could also help improve your numbers at your next doctor’s appointment. According to research published by a Greek cardiologist last spring, midday naps are associated with reduced systolic blood pressure levels and the prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications. In fact, researchers found that the longer the midday sleep, the lower the person’s blood pressure and the fewer drugs they needed to manage it.

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