What will be more likely to give you a better boost taking a nap or drinking a cup of coffee? Sleep experts say, in almost every instance, a short snooze is the winner.
The fable afternoon siesta has a rotten reputation as the refuge of the lazy and weak-willed, but the reputation is undeserved. Napping is actually normal, healthy behavior, a natural response to human body rhythms that society has suppressed in all except babies and seniors. Harry S. Truman was a well-known napper as was Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy.
A short break can dissipate tress, increase alertness, and even boost productivity. As researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found, people were better able to solve mathematical problems after a brief rest.
A new study by Harvard researchers found that taking a 60-90 minute nap has a benefit similar to that of nighttime sleep and that combining nighttime sleep with napping has twice the effect.
Whats more, while getting a full night's sleep before driving is the ideal, taking a short nap before driving can reduce a person's risk of having a drowsy driving crash. Sleep experts also recommend that if you feel drowsy when driving, you should immediately pull over to a rest area, drink a caffeinated beverage and take a 20-minute nap.
But naps and coffee arent always a winning combination. Naps are probably the ideal solution to the doldrums that hit nearly everyone each day about midafternoon. Much better than a coffee break, in fact. The stimulating caffeine in coffee works against the bodys natural rhythmic peaks and ebbs in energy. But naps, it should be noted, are not for everyone. Roughly half the population, for as yet mysterious reasons, are just not able to take forty winks. If they do, they wake up groggy and irritable. Insomnia sufferers should also avoid dozing in the afternoon. How Long is Best?A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep. The Harvard study might be the exception to this conclusion.Keep in mind that getting enough sleep on regular basis is the best way to stay alert and feel your best. But when fatigue sets in, a quick nap can do wonders for your mental and physical stamina.HOW TO CATCH THOSE ZZZZS
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME: Prime nap time is from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., when your energy level dips due to a rise in the hormone melatonin at that time of day. STAY IN THE DARK: Use a face mask or eye pillow to provide daytime darkness and make your nap more effective. NOT NEAR BEDTIME: Napping within three hours of bedtime may interfere with nighttime sleep. SHHHH. Assure that you will not be disturbed for the duration of your nap. TIME IT: You will eventually train yourself to nap for the amount of time you set aside. Until then, set an alarm or ask someone to wake you up. Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Ten Days to Detox: How to Look and feel a Decade Younger.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.