Go Take a Nap
Well, the latest research confirms the positive effects of a mid-afternoon nap. Adults in the latest — albeit small — study suggest that people who took a 90-minute power nap after lunch did better on a battery of cognitive tests than those who didn’t. The improvement rate was about 10 percent better.
Some cultures have built in the concept of an afternoon break from the long and non-stop workday. There seems to be some empirical support for the benefits of such a break, in that a mid-afternoon break (including a nap) seems to help with our ability to focus, especially with tasks that need short-term memory (which is what a lot of desk jobs entail).
This should not be particularly surprising, since we already have a wealth of research demonstrating the benefits of a full, good night’s sleep. Is it that far a stretch to imagine similar benefits from a shorter, mid-day sleep or nap?
In another study examining napping of 32 adult men, Milner & Cote (2008) found similar positive effects of both 60-minute and 20-minute naps:
Napping led to improvements for all age groups in subjective sleepiness, fatigue and accuracy on a serial addition/subtraction task. Waking electroencephalogram (EEG) confirmed that the participants were more physiologically alert following naps.
Another study confirmed similar results for athletes (Waterhouse et al., 2007):
These results indicate that a post-lunch nap improves alertness and aspects of mental and physical performance following partial sleep loss, and have implications for athletes with restricted sleep during training or before competition
However, other research has not found as strong a link. Overall, it looks like there may indeed be benefits of a mid-afternoon nap, but for most, this becomes a moot point as such a nap is not possible to take during work.
Read the full news story: Napping Makes You Smarter
Milner, C.E. & Cote, K.A. (2008). A dose-response investigation of the benefits of napping in healthy young, middle-aged and older adults. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 6(1), 2-15.
Waterhouse, J., Atkinson, G., Edwards, B., & Reilly, T. (2007). The role of a short post-lunch nap in improving cognitive, motor, and sprint performance in participants with partial sleep deprivation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25(14), 1557-1566.
Grohol, J. (2010). Go Take a Nap. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 3, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/02/23/go-take-a-nap/