The Wonderful Power of a Nap

Life has its way of wearing us down. From the hyper-connectivity social media frenzy to the busybody work days we put ourselves through; seldom do we have time to sit back and recharge. Since we often sleep-procrastinate mainly because of our fear of missing out, it’s hard to ever catch up on the unpaid sleep debt. Telling ourselves, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is good enough to accelerate our demise. Sleep is crucial; it essentially keeps our bodies stable and repairs our system, internally and externally. However, some of our livelihoods prevent of us from getting adequate sleep time, so we constantly put it off — unaware of the noxious effects that’s being placed upon us for every minute lost. Recently, napping has been proven to increase memory and restore an insufficient night’s sleep.

Fortunately, researchers at Sorbonne university in Paris found that just a 30-minute nap can reverse the deleterious effects of a short night’s sleep. The study was conducted on 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32. The first night, all participants had a sufficient 8 hours of sleep. The second night, participants were limited to two hours of sleep. Upon waking up, researchers took samples of the participants urine and saliva to get a grasp of how the lack of sleep affected their hormonal levels. What researchers found was a major increase in norepinephrine — a stress hormone that raises blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure. Subsequently, the subjects napped for just 30 minutes and the results showed that all norepinephrine levels were returned to normal. This evinces the special restorative power of a day time power nap and how your brain recognizes that it must get the most of the abbreviated sleep session.

Another study conducted in Germany revealed that napping for 45 to 60 minutes can boost memory. Participants had to learn pairs of unconnected words and thereafter some were allowed to nap while others stayed up and watched a DVD. Those who napped were remarkably better at retrieving information. The brain’s region of memory — the hippocampus — seemed to be heightened after a nap.

Going forward, it would be wise of companies who push a lot of monotonous, mind-numbing tedium on employees to implement a nap period for better business. Google and technology-based companies have already added this to their work schedule to get the best of our their workers. Schools may soon do the same, so that students can be better apt to learning things in the allotted 8-9 hour school day rather than bringing work home to a distraction-filled environment. Napping can also increase alertness and we all know how many accidents occur because of a lack of sleep. If you’re feeling lethargic and sleepy, your brain might be directing you in the direction that will save your life. Nap your way to better productivity.

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Sleep Is Everything

For about one-third of our lives, we are lost in the sea of oblivion. Sleep is one of the most fundamental features of human nature. Nowadays, it seems as if we intentionally deprive ourselves of it; whether it is from an unrelenting work habit, cellphone addiction, partying too much, disorders, or a bad sleeping environment, we are always at the mercy of our brain and how much rest it actually gets. You can mask your exhaustion through energy drinks and such, but the truth is: we all incur a sleep debt, and this debt has to be amortized in some sort of effective way or else we pay the price of being eternally fatigued and worn-down. Adequate sleep qualities can lead to a healthier life. In modern society, sleep studies are being conducted every day; long-term and short-term studies are orchestrated to determine how sleep affects our lives and how it can be deleterious to our wellbeing, granted being devoid of it. The five stages of sleep contribute to the sufficient restoration of not only our physical body, but our cognitive faculties.

For the past month, I have been dutifully using the sleep-cycle application, which monitors sleep phases and duration, in order to wake you at the appropriate time at which you are not groggy. My average night’s sleep is a morbid 5 hours and 54 minutes a night. However, my sleep is entirely reliant on everything I have done in the day, leading up to the night’s rest. If I had an early-evening coffee or decide to partake in a later-than-usual (9pm) workout, then I will find myself wallowing in bed for numerous hours, beset by the unending thought of wondering why I can’t fall asleep. My haphazard schedule of sleep has affected me in many different ways. Any night when I do not reach the optimal amount of sleep (7-8 hours) for a person in my age bracket, I automatically pay the piper. For instance, when I get less than 5 hours of sleep, I feel disoriented and less sharp. Here’s the caveat: ironically, I’m typing this on 4 hours of sleep, so my exposition may be less transparent. Everything is fleeting; my memory is like a perforated plastic bag full of water, leaking out all of the essential things I took heed of the prior day. Also, my weight fluctuation seems to tip the scales more than usual with a precarious appetite, leading me to crave high-calorie foods. However, the nights when I get the ideal amount of slumber, I feel ebullient; my brain is fast-witted, and my weight is stabilized and properly managed. Now that I’ve learned that satisfactory sleep can reverse the effects of aging, I am painstakingly aware of how many hours I obtain a night because we all want to look younger.

The vaunted rapid eye movement (REM) sleep can be disrupted by drinking alcohol. After a night of imbibing excessively, you will ineluctably be beleaguered by lethargy and laziness. This empty feeling that we have all been victims of, puts our bodies and minds in a state of fluster. REM, the most restorative stage in sleep, is thrown off-kilter and reduced because of the body’s way to combat the effects of alcohol leading to a light-sleep repose, in which you are easily awakened. When a person is constantly overwhelmed by unsound sleep, this creates other effects. These effects include: gravitation towards unhealthy foods, lack of motor skills, attention deficit, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.

The distractions that we battle everyday flies in the face of proper somnolence. All of the artificial light and gadgets that stand in the way of bedtime are arm-wrestling with 100,000 years of evolution. Our circadian rhythm, a process that regulates our sleep-wake cycles in respect to a 24-hour interval, has been tampered with by the new technologies and varying work hours. Melatonin, a hormone in the pineal gland that is responsible for determining the times to sleep and wake, has been inhibited by all of the aforementioned interruptions. No matter how many coffees and Red Bulls we drink, nature has a way of telling us that we need time to unwind before something unpleasant happens. Thousands of car accidents a year are due to sleep deprivation; this is something that can be easily avoided with a routine sleep schedule. Sleep–as we know it–essentially discards the unnecessary information and keeps the important lessons we’ve gained from the preceding day. Even a 15-30 minute nap can provide you with more alertness. In the book Dreamland by David K. Randall, he writes, “Naps are even being used to provide a competitive advantage in the workplace. Companies such as Google, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Cisco Systems have installed designated napping areas in their offices. The idea is that naps may allow engineers and designers to arrive at creative solutions more quickly than they would by staying awake all day.” People who remain faithful to a regimented sleep agenda tend to live longer than those who do not. Sleep itself is basic; try not to get caught up in all of the hoopla before your bedtime. Overtime, you will slowly notice your body going in the direction that you desire.

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