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As a kid, my day was not complete without that standard afternoon nap. Now, though, I still get tired and often nod off during class. I am disappointed to find that napping will not be socially acceptable again until I reach the ripe old age of mushy food and Depends.
Despite social stigmas regarding adult naptime, many experts have a different take on this issue. Doctors have recommended napping for decades, and in many modern-day cultures, the afternoon siesta is routine.
The beneficial effects of napping have only recently been examined by scientists. Some aspects of mental health that show significant improvement in various studies include memory, cognition, athletic performance and learning.
A study at Brock University in Canada conducted by Dr. Catherine Milner concluded that the attentiveness of all napping participants improved dramatically in comparison to the non-napping control group.
Last year, research from UC Berkeley suggested napping as little as one hour could dramatically improve participants’ performance in various learning exercises. Specifically, the study alleged that a quick snooze may enhance the brain’s ability to store memories, making learning easier.
Matthew Walker, lead scientist of the UC Berkeley study, compared the brain to a crowded e-mail inbox to demonstrate the effect of napping on the brain.
“It’s as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail,” Walker said in a
press release. “It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder.”
However, before you commit to a daily siesta, it is important to consider that individuals’ sleep needs vary. While there is no specific formula to maximize the benefits of power napping, scientists have developed a few pointers based on their findings.
Most experts agree that naps should last at least 10 minutes, but should not exceed 30 minutes. If your afternoon sleep surpasses the 30-minute limit, you’ll likely find yourself counting sheep at night as your body tries to transition from consciousness to deep levels of sleep.
One of my favorite napping techniques originates from a study conducted in Japan. Based on the notion that caffeine takes approximately 20 minutes to take effect, test subjects were given a cup of coffee immediately before a 20-minute nap. The scientists then tested the subjects’ alertness and productivity upon waking.
In comparison to the waking energy levels of participants using other methods, such as face-washing or exposure to bright light, the caffeine technique proved the most effective.
While many college students treat napping like a full-time job, for those of you overachievers who attend lecture regularly and have a planner full of chess club engagements, extracurricular activities and meetings to save the world, consider power-napping.
Being the trendsetter I am, I declare a total Snuggie revolution. So this week, Gauchos, bust out your cheetah print pjs and matching pillow to catch your much-needed zzzs. Not only will your fashion sense be the envy of your peers, but your improved brain function will really make ‘em turn green.