By Amanda Schupak
At some point we outgrew nap time. We were told to put away our mats and convinced that, as adults, we were supposed to be able to just stay awake all day and function normally. But, that doesn’t always work. Long workdays, a never-ending to-do list, and the constant barrage of blinking, flashing, beeping devices contribute to an epidemic of sleep deprivation that’s cutting into productivity, health, and happiness.
Naps aren’t just for kids. And, they're not a sign of laziness or weakness, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Here are 12 perfectly respectable reasons to take a nap.
1. You’ll do better at work. Studies show that a brief midday nap makes you more alert and improves performance. Who says you can’t sleep on your lunch break?
2. Napping helps you learn. Harvard researchers found that people get progressively worse at learning a new task — unless they take a nap between sessions.
3. And, problem solve. In a January 2014 study, after struggling to beat a video game, subjects who took a nap were almost twice as likely to progress to the next level as those who didn’t.
4. Naps reduce workplace accidents, especially among shift workers, like air traffic controllers and nurses and doctors, whose schedules are inherently unnatural.
5. It’s good for your heart. In a study of over 20,000 men and women in Greece, where naps are the norm, regular nappers had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death.
6. You’ve got a long drive ahead of you. Often, sleep-deprived people don’t realize they’re sleep-deprived, says sleep expert Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. That’s dangerous if you’re getting behind the wheel. A preemptive nap could prevent a car accident. Breus recommends what he calls a “nap-a-latte.” Brew a cup of drip coffee (the most caffeinated of preparations), cool it with ice, and chug it down. The caffeine will take 25 minutes to kick in. Use that time for a brief nap, then hit the road. “It’s a quick way to get about four hours’ worth of energy,” he says.
7. You just had a baby. Postpartum sleep deprivation contributes to postpartum depression. Try to nap when your baby naps.
8. You’re a narcoleptic. Patients with narcolepsy (which is more common than you think) find that planned, short naps are crucial for dealing with daily sleepiness.
9. You’re stressed. Naps have been shown to help with stress management.
10. It’ll boost your mood. Women are especially sensitive to “sleep pressure,” according to a 2009 study, which is a fancy way of saying we’re less happy when we’re tired and more happy when we get to nap.
12. You’re tired. That’s a good enough reason right there. Sleep deprivation makes the day harder and is just all around bad for your health. If you didn’t get the sleep you need last night, make up for it with a nap, right now.