Tag Archives: napping

Pick-me-up: the power nap

Pick-me-up: n. something that refreshes, restores or stimulates; a tonic or bracer.

Coffee is a wonderful beverage. So is tea. And thanks to the marketing geniuses who wanted to expand the beverage market we now have all manner of caffeinated sweet drinks to jolt us awake while they plump us up.

There comes a time of day, however – usually shortly after lunch (I’ve written about this before) – when my brain just gets stuck and refuses to shift from first gear. I forget what I’m trying to accomplish, then when I remember I just don’t have the will to do it. I paw through the papers on my desk hoping to find answers or energy but nothing happens. I’ve hit the wall. (This happens more often in the damp dark days of winter as well.)

Then I remember: I should take a nap! I stretch out on my bed, Bama the cat curls up on my face, and we’re out.

Half an hour later we’re raring to go.

Yet another study indicates my body is smarter than I am. From the NY Times:

A cup of strong coffee might make you feel wide awake, but a small study suggests that for improved physical and mental performance, an afternoon nap works better.Scientists spent a morning training 61 people in motor, perceptual and verbal tasks: tapping a keyboard in a specific sequence, discriminating between shapes on a computer screen and memorizing a list of words. Then the scientists randomly divided the subjects into three groups. The first took a nap from 1 to 3 p.m. At 3, the second group took a 200-milligram caffeine pill, and the third took a placebo. The subjects repeated the tasks they had been taught earlier and were scored by researchers who did not know which group they were in.

Those who had caffeine had worse motor skills than those who napped or had a placebo. In the perceptual task, the nappers did significantly better than either the caffeine or placebo group. On the verbal test, nappers were best by a wide margin, and the caffeine consumers did no better than those given a placebo. Despite their mediocre performance, caffeine takers consistently reported less sleepiness than the others.

“People think they’re smarter on caffeine,” said Sara C. Mednick, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the lead author of the study, which appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. “But this study is a strong argument for taking a nap instead of having a cup of coffee.”

I rest my case.

And my eyes.

Postprandial plunge: to nap or not to nap?

Postprandial: following a meal

Plunge: to descend precipitously

Perhaps I exaggerate – but plunge was the only p-word that comes close to what happens to me after lunch most days… (and after as little as one glass of wine w. dinner) – I want to get horizontal and shut my eyes.

Supposedly it has something to do with blood sugar levels, but it doesn’t seem to matter whether I eat a low or high carb meal; I just get sleepy.

And then I resist it.  I sit at my computer trying to write, trying to compute, trying to think through a problem — gaining no traction but refusing to succumb.  If I get up and tackle a physical chore I can sometimes barrel through it, but at a detriment to my effectiveness.

Half an hour after a nap it’s as if I rebooted my whole system, and all the resource-hogging resident programs in my brain have cleared out.  My question to myself is this: why don’t I just go with the flow and make room in my schedule for a daily nap?

Napping is a high art in some cultures; there’s no shame attached to it. It’s probably good for your health, as a recent study from Greece indicates.   From that story in the NY Times:

Now, out of Greece, comes permission to do exactly that. A study of more than 23,000 adults shows that those who napped for about 30 minutes each week had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack than those who did not.

So this should mean that all working Americans will receive permission from their bosses to close their eyes every afternoon at about 4 p.m., right?

Don’t bet your blankie on it.

This is hardly the first study showing that sleep is more than simply time when we really should be at work. Other studies, though few as extensive as the Greek research, show that short periods of sleep during the day increase productivity and creativity while reducing stress. And even without surveys, we know this from experience.

When you need a nap, you need a nap. Nothing — not caffeine, not a chocolate bar, not a pill — recharges the battery in the same way.

I welcome you to join me…