Does an Afternoon Nap really Improve Efficiency?

by Garreth Myers

Siesta, described as a short afternoon nap, is a common tradition followed in several countries around the world, especially in those regions where is weather is on the warmer side. This ancient practice, which has been going on for centuries, was regarded as a physical necessity at one time, but today, because of modern technology, it is more of a luxury. Most people take this tradition as an opportunity to catch up on their sleep, especially when they do not get the chance to sleep for 8 hours in the night. People who are new to afternoon naps or are not used to it may find it a thorough waste of time. However, it is important to realize that afternoon naps are a lot more than an opportunity invented by slackers or lazy workers to get some time away from their work. However, most people who do take naps in the afternoon claim to feel more rested, as a result of which, they may also feel a lot healthier. In fact, recent studies indicate that sleeping for even a short while in the afternoon can make you smarter and could also bring about a significant improvement in your performance at work or at studies. This research was recently conducted by a group of professionals from the psychology department of the University of California, in Berkeley.

One of the activities in the research was learning a series of names and faces during the early noon hours and then matching them towards the later part of the day. A group of people participating in the study took a nap of around 90 minutes in the afternoon, whereas the others did not. At the end of the day, it was seen that those who got an afternoon nap performed in a much better manner as compared to those who did not sleep in the afternoon; there was a considerable amount of decline in the test scores of the people who did not sleep or nap in the afternoon.

The researchers have further gone on to explain this by comparing the part of the brain which stores short-term memories and information to an email inbox, which has a limit on it. They say that there is only a certain amount that you can receive, before your emails start bouncing. Getting a nap in the middle of the day is just like clearing out the inbox and storing the emails on to other folders, making way for new emails to be received. Therefore, after a nap, a person is ready to receive more information and store an additional amount of memories. This applies not only to simple activities like remembering people's names and places, but also in other more important activities, some of which include studying for tests, preparing for a presentation and so on. This research also highlights the different harmful effects of sleep deprivation on the body, regardless of a person's age. One of the adverse impacts that it could have is a decline in a person's learning capabilities. The power of the brain to absorb new information reduces during the course of the normal day. However, taking naps in the middle can bring about a reversal in this decline. As a result of this, the brain power remains at its best, even in the middle or at the end of the day. On the other hand, the longer you stay awake, i.e., the less you sleep the more sluggish your brain, mind and bottom becomes.

It is also a well-known fact that lack of sleep caused by factors like insomnia or sleep deprivation could lead to a shrinking in the grey matter of the brain. This could have an adverse effect on a person's ability to learn and perform well. The longer a person remains awake, the more difficult it becomes for his or her brain to store new information. This is not only evident in tasks like memorizing notes for a test or a presentation, but also in simple and easy exercises such as remembering people's names and faces. This can also explain why we find it difficult to learn new things, as we grow older and get a less amount of sleep each day.

Younger people too can improve their mental abilities and performance by napping for a while in the afternoon, which may cause them to become smarter. These studies should take on the form of an eye opener for those school or college students as well as those professionals who try to pull and all-nighter, studying for their exams, or gathers information for their presentation.

Unfortunately, not all people find it possible to take a nap in the afternoon. Given below are a few steps that can be followed to take an afternoon nap and make it an effective one:

  • The body experiences a natural dip in energy at around 1 in the afternoon. Therefore, the best time to take a nap is between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
  • Make sure that you are comfortable, which not only includes your position, but also the clothes you are wearing and the environment.
  • Ensure that the room is dark, by drawing the shades or wearing a sleep mask.
  • Keep your phone on silent mode or preferably switch it off, so that it does not disturb you.
  • Cover yourself with a light sheet or blanket.
  • Set an alarm for yourself, so that you do not oversleep.

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