Napping - The Art of the Snooze

Here's some good news for anyone who's ever nodded off during a mid-afternoon staff meeting: Naps are good for the health.

And you can remind your boss and co-workers when they call you a slacker.

According to one new study, people who take regular naps show a lower incidence of heart attacks. They found that people, especially working men, who napped at least three times a week for 30 minutes had a 37 percent lower coronary death rate than those who never napped.

Another NASA study recently showed that short naps boosted productivity by more than 34 percent, helping with memory recall, alertness and learning. An afternoon siesta appears to help improve reaction time, judgment and performance.

Sadly, I am not one of those lucky individuals who can sleep during the day. I'm a non-napper, forever envious of those who can recharge after a few midday zzzzz's. If I find myself dozing off during the day, it means I'm probably getting sick.

Judging from all the napping advice out there, however, perhaps my ability to snooze can be improved with practice. There are lots of tips and suggestions to help non-nappers like me doze off properly.

Below, some quick tips to get the most out a catnap:

  • You can try to time a nap between 1 and 3 p.m., because this when our circadian rhythms naturally dip. (But be aware that mid-afternoon also makes it more likely to fall into a deeper sleep.)
  • Go easy on caffeine and high-calorie foods, which interfere with our sleep cycles.
  • Power naps are typically about 20 minutes long. But naps ranging from two minutes to 85 minutes are proven to have benefits.
  • A nap that's longer than 90 minutes might interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Set an alarm so you won't oversleep.
  • If possible, darken the room or wear an eyeshade.
  • Don't nap up to three hours before bedtime.

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