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Why you need to take a nap

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How taking a nap can help you to stress less, support your immune system health and increase your productivity at work.

The case for napping

Nana nappers rejoice! A regular nap may help you to stress less and support your immune system health.

A small study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism investigated the benefits of taking a nap on stress and immune responses.

The cross-over study of 11 healthy men, between 25 and 32 years of age involved two sessions of restricted sleep, where they were limited to just 2 hours of shut-eye.

In the first session they were not allowed to nap the next day. In the second session they had two 30 minute naps (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) the day after their restricted night’s sleep.

Both sessions were conducted over 3 nights starting with 8 hours sleep on night one, then the night of restricted sleep and a recovery night of unrestricted sleep.
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Napping, stress relief and immune system health

The results? When the men were not allowed to nap their levels of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress were higher than when they had a nap.

They also found that levels of an antiviral protein dropped when the men didn’t nap, suggesting that a nap could be good for immune system health too.

“Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover,” said one study author Brice Faraut, PhD.

“The findings support the development of practical strategies for addressing chronically sleep-deprived populations, such as night and shift workers.”  

Why you should take a nap at work

In more good news for those partial to a nap, the science suggests that it may even help you perform better at work. A German study found that napping for about an hour produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory.

And a 2017 Sleep Health Foundation report found that Australian's lack of sleep substantially reduces workplace productivity of $17.9 billion dollars.

Dr Fiona Kerr, a neural and systems complexity specialist at the University of Adelaide told SBS Insight that napping:
  • Increases alertness and creativity
  • Increases motor performance
  • Boosts stamina
  • Lifts your mood
  • Improves problem-solving
  • Improves cognitive function

How to take a a good nap

  • Make it part of your routine - if you nap regularly try to take a nap at the same time each day
  • Pick the right environment - nap in a quiet dark place with a comfortable temperature
  • Keep it short - a good length of time for a nap is 15 30 minutes. Any longer and you're likely to feel more tired than before you took a nap, or make it harder to sleep well at night

The scientific power of naps