All day long, harried New Yorkers and tuckered-out tourists stream up to the
24th floor of the Empire State Building. Here, a company called MetroNaps
provides eye masks and aerodynamically curved pods --- looking like something
out of 2001: A Space Odyssey --- where the sleepy can catch up on shut-eye for
$14 per 20 minutes. They're joining thousands of others across the country who
know that a daytime nap is key to coping with life's demands and hectic
Need to recharge? Napping is the way of the world. Whether
it's a siesta in Spain or a kip in England, a nap helps recharge our batteries.
Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Albert Einstein
were all known to catch 40 winks during the day. Many of today's Olympians and
other top athletes report taking long naps in the afternoon as part of their
training regimen. British Airways even allows its pilots to snooze briefly
during trans-Atlantic flights, on the theory that they'll be more alert when it
comes time to land.
When heart specialist John M. Kennedy, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, stands at the scrub sink before an operation, he breathes deeply with seven-count exhales, visualizing how he wants the procedure to go. "Athletes use these techniques to perform under pressure, but we can all call on them in our regular lives," Dr. Kennedy says. It starts with knowing what kind of breathing works best for the challenge you're facing. Here's what the latest research shows.
Even so, it's taken some time for naps to gain popularity (and workplace
acceptance) among the rest of us. According to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation
poll, 55% of adults surveyed take, on average, at least one nap during the
week, with 35% reporting that they take two or more.
How do naps help?MRI scans show that brain activity stays
high throughout the day in people who nap. Without one, activity declines as
the day wears on. After a nap, the brain has greater alertness, improved memory
retention, and an enhanced ability to think creatively and insightfully.
You can gain benefits from snoozing as little as five minutes or as much as
two hours. Research shows you stand to get the most out of a midday snooze if
you can go through a full cycle of sleep, including slow-wave or "deep"
sleep. This can take about 90 minutes. Research shows that taking a 20-minute
nap about eight hours after you wake can do more for you than sleeping another
20 minutes in the morning.
Feel the urge to nap? Giving in to it can help you feel revived and more
productive at work, on the road, or at home. It's an open-and-shut-eye case.
Here are some tips:
Silence, please. Find a napping place free from phones,
loud noises, or disruptive people.
Safety first. Nap in a safe place. If you choose to snooze
in a car or in a parking garage, lock your doors or identify a napping partner
who can watch out for you.
Early to rise. Avoid napping past 3 p.m. so that it won't
interfere with a good night's sleep. It's best to nap according to your
circadian rhythm (the body's natural 24-hour cycle), which for most of us means
snoozing in late morning or early afternoon.
Waking life. Once your nap is over, take a quick walk in
the sunlight if possible to reset your circadian clock.