We’ve all heard the funny associations with napping; the nanna nap, the disco nap, and the too-much-food nap are just a few of the scenarios we attribute to the need for sleep.
The fact of the matter is though that more than 85 percent of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, which means they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Humans are part of the mammal minority called monophasic sleepers, which means our days are divided into two distinct periods – sleep and wakefulness – or, ‘day and night’.
So is it natural for humans to cut out shorter periods of sleep and rest throughout the day, or have we just developed a society that thrives on the day and night model?
The effects of sleep deprivation
It’s no secret that when you have a bad night’s sleep you don’t perform your best the next day. From headaches and grogginess through to inability to focus, lack of sleep can have numerous detrimental effects.
Ongoing sleep deprivation may cause:
- greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- increased risk of developing colorectal cancer
- increased risk of developing heart disease
- increased risk of developing dementia
- higher risk of obesity
- greater risk of developing depression and anxiety
It is also dangerous to function on such an on-going lack of sleep, as your risk of road accidents and other incidents increases due to slower or lacking brain function3.
The upside of a nap
The Spanish and Italians still honour the tradition of siesta in the afternoon, so why should it be reserved for something you only do on holiday? We’re so used to being time poor that we sacrifice our own health to get our to-do lists done. But, you don’t have to interrupt your entire day. A short nap of just 20-30 minutes can help to improve your mood, alertness and performance.
Additionally, a recent NASA study involving military pilots and astronauts found that a 40 minute nap improved performance by 34 per cent and alertness 100 per cent.
While nothing can replace a good night’s sleep, napping has proven to be beneficial for most people. Getting regular, good quality sleep is important, however if you’re ever feeling low in energy or can’t shake the yawns, a short nap could save the day.