If you’ve ever visited a warm weather country, like Spain, Italy, or Greece during the summer months, you might have noticed that in some locations they shut down the entire city during the hottest part of the day. Traditionally, this practice allowed their workers to take a much needed siesta, or nap, to rejuvenate and return to work during the cooler part of the day. During my visits, I’d be forced to take a siesta as a way of coping with their oppressive heat. But upon returning home, I never thought it necessary to continue as the cooler summers associated with living in the northern states never required this kind of adaptation. Honestly, I thought my geographically influenced way of life would be the case for my whole life. But this summer, with its record number of heat advisories and scorching temperatures, challenged me to make a practical lifestyle change–siesta style. In addition to helping me better cope with the heat, it turns out a good nap has fantastic health benefits as well:
- cardiovascular health
- hormonal maintenance
- cell repair
However, as I discovered, the type of nap you take can further influence your mental wellness too. According to Sara Mednick PhD, author of the book Take A Nap! Change Your Life, Power naps (defined as lasting 20 minutes or less) have the additional benefits of:
- enhanced mood
- increased productivity
- lowering stress hormones
- improved memory
- aiding learning
It turns out there are some important factors to consider before attempting a power nap. Failure to follow these recommendations can result in waking up feeling groggy and foggy instead of alert and refreshed. So for maximum benefit, consider these important 8 steps:
- Attitude–taking a nap does not make you lazy, it makes you smart.
- Timing–napping in the morning or just after lunch is best for avoiding grogginess.
- Avoid–stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and high fats that mess with your nap.
- Diet–eat a high calcium & protein food (like yogurt) 1-2 hours before to aid sleep.
- Environment–prepare the room to be free of disturbances and disruptive noise.
- Lighting–darken the room or cover your eyes to produce melatonin for napping.
- Temperature–body temps fall during sleep, so compensate with a blanket or heat.
- Duration–in the sleep position, set your alarm or cell phone for 20 minutes or less. This is the key to waking up feeling rejuvenated–as opposed to feeling groggy. (Be careful, sleeping longer than 20 minutes is associated with slower brain waves that results in waking up in a state of sleep inertia that leads to that groggy and foggy brain feeling.)
Now that I’ve made this simple SIESTA STYLE accommodation to my lifestyle as a way to better adapt to the changes in my environment I can honestly say I like the effect a good POWER NAP has on my body, mind, and spirit. Due of this enhanced feeling of well-being, I’m pretty sure I’ll continue this practice of power napping for my whole life.