By Jeff Conklin
What do Albert Einstein, JFK, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have in common? They all believed in napping, and, as it turns out, the all had the right idea.
The body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, dips naturally in the afternoon, generally between 12:00-2:00. Evidence shows that the brain actually falls into a lull, indicating that the propensity to nap is actually inborn. Further substantiating this belief is that most people can drop off quickly and sleep deeply during this portion of the afternoon than other times of the day.
Sleep experts believe that a mid-afternoon nap of just 20-30 minutes can boost mental alertness and concentration significantly, and it can actually put you in a better mood. Fifteen minutes does not produce a measurable difference, and if you sleep much longer, you may have trouble falling asleep at night.
Studies further demonstrate that afternoon napping is an effective way for people to make up for not getting enough sleep at night. In fact, if you want to make up for lost sleep during the night, it’s far better to nap than to sleep late in the morning. Too much sleep in one single stretch can throw your internal clock off and cause further sleep problems.
It’s also best to keep your body on a schedule, waking up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night. The average nighttime sleep ideal seems to be from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. That is the norm, but everyone is different.
Some people require just seven hours of sleep per night, others, like me, need a full nine. This is a pre-determined factor that really cannot be changed, so it’s best to find your natural rhythm and go with it. If it seems to include a mid-afternoon catnap, by all means try to fit it into your schedule. You’ll likely notice a difference in your level of production and you’ll feel better too.
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