The Importance of Naps

I’ve always been a fan of naps. I love hammocks, beach towels, and porch swings. I love couches in libraries and college student unions. Growing up, I especially loved to nap on long car rides, listening to my parents in the front seat; their words blending into pleasant background noise lulling me to sleep along with the sound of the wheels and the car motor.

Today, I appreciate being at home with a child who takes three-hour naps. On most days, I get to lie down for at least ten minutes and not always sleep, but at least I close my eyes.

Naps are important not just for babies and their parents, but for those without kids as well. In my previous career as a minister I found time for naps — even when I was in the office all day. One advantage of working in a church or synagogue is the presence of rooms with couches.

This afternoon while trying to nap, I found myself thinking about naps rather than sleeping. On a whim I googled “adult naps” and discovered some interesting information. According to “The Benefit of Naps” by Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs, July 27, 2004:

Several lines of evidence, including the universal tendency of toddlers and the elderly to nap in the afternoon and the afternoon nap of siesta cultures, have led sleep researchers to the same conclusion: nature intended that we take a nap in the middle of the day. This biological readiness to fall asleep in the mid-afternoon coincides with a slight drop in body temperature and occurs regardless of whether we eat lunch. It is present even in good sleepers who are well rested. Sleep researchers have also discovered that the afternoon dip in mood and alertness is associated with poorer performance, particularly after a night of sleep loss, and a simultaneous increase in sleepiness-related accidents. In fact, deaths from all causes show a secondary peak in the afternoon after a nocturnal peak, presumably from sleepiness-related accidents.

He goes on to say:

Research on napping suggests that an afternoon nap as short as ten minutes can enhance alertness, mood, and mental performance, especially after a night of poor sleep.

I also discovered some other Boston nappers who have written books on the subject. Bill and Camille Anthony wrote the following books, available on Amazon: The Art of Napping and The Art of Napping at Work. They both look like a lot of fun to read!

Now that I’ve written my piece, I feel tired enough to try to nap again. My daughter woke me up at 5:30 this morning. She has 1/2 hour left on her nap. I’ll see if I can catch a few zzz’s myself.

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