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benefits of napping power nap benefits sleep and brain sleeping and mental health what happens when you sleep

Power nap benefits: 3 ways a quick snooze improves brain health.

Published Aug 4, 2023 | Updated Feb 8, 2024
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The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep/day [1]. In this fast-paced life with infinite milestones to conquer, getting your 7 a day is easier said than done. The link between sleeping and mental health is well established. Sleeping for 6-8 hours can improve your mood, lower stress, and even protect against dementia [2][3]. With only 35% of the UK population meeting the 7 hours mark [6], it is vital to find ways to up that number. So how do you check every item on your to-do list and ensure getting adequate sleep? The answer is naps. Naps can step in and fill the gaps of inadequate nightly sleep. They also come with many brain gains. Read on to learn about 3 benefits of napping and the best way to nap to maximise gains. 

Sleep and brain health: Why getting enough is crucial.

Sleep performs many intricate functions that transcend beyond just closing your eyes for a few hours. Sleep occurs in cycles lasting approximately 90 minutes [4]. Each cycle has 4 stages. The first 2 stages are concise, after which the brain enters a longer, deeper sleep at stage 3. Read more about sleep cycles here. When you sleep, your brain undergoes deep cleaning, improves memory by re-organising information into long term storage, clears mental fatigue and improves mood [5]. What happens to your brain when you sleep for short periods? Most naps last 1-2 stages of your sleep cycle, and you wake up before you enter the deepest stage (stage 3). This is important because longer naps (>30 mins) can cause you to enter stage 3 and waking up in the middle of that stage can lead to grogginess [13]. Depending on the duration of the nap, you can still reap sleep benefits.

Nap your way to a stress-free, happy day.

Do you have days with intense work/study commitments, and you want a quick way to uplift your mood? Take a 15 mins nap. Nurses working on night shifts took two 15-mins naps during their shift and reported lessened fatigue, lower mental stress, and better mood [7]. Even a 10-min nap brought a positive mood for up to an hour after waking up [8], and if you want to stretch that good mood to 4 hours, take a 30-60 mins nap [8]. Evidence states that during naps, your brain is organising emotional processes, which helps neutralise negative emotions [9]. This can contribute to lesser stress and better mood. Want additional mood support? Taking your brain’s happy chemical, serotonin’s building block can help produce more of the mood uplifting chemical. 5-HTP is found in supplemental form and can enter the brain to produce more serotonin. brain feed has produced the world’s smallest dense tablet of 100mg 5-HTP that can naturally and safely increase serotonin levels. Read more here.


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Get a quick snooze to boost alertness.

NASA recommends 26 mins of nap time to boost alertness [10], after a study among commercial pilots. Working on an important project and need to focus? Take an afternoon nap. A review of 11 studies found that an early afternoon nap (of varying duration) improves alertness [11]. Your biological clock is programmed for a dip in alertness between 1am-5am (when you are normally asleep) and between 1pm-5pm, whereby daytime naps can step in and provide a mini-sleep recovery, thus boosting alertness [11]. Short naps of 10-15 mins were seen to increase brain activity [12] involving the processing area in the brain, which can help explain the improved alertness.

Secure a quick siesta for memory support. 

When you sleep, your brain conducts reorganisation. In a busy office, documents that are stored in a well-organised manner are easily accessible, similarly, your brain can remember things more efficiently when the information is organised correctly. Naps can step in and help with the organisation, which lead to better memory skills. Got an exam coming up and want to maximise learning potential? Add an afternoon nap to your study kit. A study found increased activity in the memory area of the brain among frequent nappers [14]. This activation was associated with revision of information obtained during waking hours and strengthening of brain connections [14]. A study recommended a 30 mins nap for better memory coding [8]. Mid-day naps allow the brain to take the time to organise information learnt instead of waiting till bedtime to do the job [9]. Older adults who napped regularly had higher cognitive scores in memory and attention skills [15].

A short snooze can help you succeed in improving your mood, alertness, and memory. Make the best of naps to power through your day and optimise mental health. 

References

  1. Suni, E. (2021). How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? | National Sleep Foundation. [online] Sleep Foundation. 
  2. American Psychological Association (2021). Stress and Sleep. [online]
  3. Robbins, R. et al. (2021). Examining sleep deficiency and disturbance and their risk for incident dementia and all-cause mortality in older adults across 5 years in the United States. Aging, 13(3), pp.3254–3268.
  4. Patel, A. K. et al. Physiology, Sleep Stages. [Updated 2022 Sep 7]. In: StatPearls
  5. Eugene, A. R., & Masiak, J. (2015). The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep. MEDtube science3(1), 35–40.
  6. Dinic, M. (2022). The YouGov Sleep Study: Part one - Sleeping patterns | YouGov
  7. Oriyama, S., Miyakoshi, Y., & Kobayashi, T. (2014). Effects of two 15-min naps on the subjective sleepiness, fatigue and heart rate variability of night shift nurses. Industrial health52(1), 25–35.
  8. Leong, R.L.F., Lau, T., Dicom, A.R., Teo, T.B., Ong, J.L. and Chee, M.W.L. (2023). Influence of mid-afternoon nap duration and sleep parameters on memory encoding, mood, processing speed, and vigilance. Sleep, 46(4).
  9. Mantua, J., & Spencer, R. M. C. (2017). Exploring the nap paradox: are mid-day sleep bouts a friend or foe?. Sleep medicine37, 88–97.
  10. Hilditch, C. (2019). The benefits of napping for safety & how quickly can the brain wake-up from sleep? 
  11. Dutheil, F., Danini, B., Bagheri, R., Fantini, M. L., Pereira, B., Moustafa, F., Trousselard, M., & Navel, V. (2021). Effects of a Short Daytime Nap on the Cognitive Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health18(19), 10212.
  12. Mark Lawrence, W., Esther Yuet Ying, L., Yeuk Ching, L., Benjamin, R., Chia-Huei, T., Tatia Mei Chun, L., & Yun Kwok, W. (2020). The protective effect of daytime sleep on planning and risk-related decision-making in emerging adults. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience15(11), 1228–1237.
  13. Sleep Foundation. (2009). Napping: Benefits and Tips. [online] 
  14. McDevitt, E. A., Sattari, N., Duggan, K. A., Cellini, N., Whitehurst, L. N., Perera, C., Reihanabad, N., Granados, S., Hernandez, L., & Mednick, S. C. (2018). The impact of frequent napping and nap practice on sleep-dependent memory in humans. Scientific reports8(1), 15053.
  15. Cai, H., Su, N., Li, W., Li, X., Xiao, S. and Sun, L. (2021). Relationship between afternoon napping and cognitive function in the ageing Chinese population. General Psychiatry, [online] 34(1), p.e100361.

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