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Humans are monophasic sleepers, meaning our days have distinct periods for slumber and being awake. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good nap every now and again. The benefits of napping are well documented, leaving at least five reasons to curl up and take a short snooze.
A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans average 6.8 hours of sleep each night. This number is far less than the seven to nine hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Dr. Abid Malik of Orlando Health-South Seminole Hospital’s Sleep Disorder Center claims that napping is the “next best thing” to getting a full night’s rest. Even a short 20-30 nap can improve alertness and performance; two things that suffer when you are sleep deprived.
Studies show that regular naps can reduce stress by regulating the amount of norepinephrine in the blood. Too much of this hormone can increase blood pressure and glucose levels, and may also cause shakiness. A French study performed on 11 men revealed that sleeping for only two hours each night increased the amount of norepinephrine by 2.5 times. However, taking a 30-minute nap the next day reduced norepinephrine to normal levels.
One of the biggest benefits of napping may be that it helps you maintain a normal weight. Research from Stanford University showed that sleep deprivation increases the amount of gherkin, a hunger hormone. It also reduces the amount of liptin, a hormone that signals the body that it is full. Napping after a poor night’s sleep could therefore keep you from pigging out, making it easier for you to maintain a healthy diet.
British researchers believe that a lack of sleep causes your blood vessels to stiffen, but that taking a nap can cause them to become more flexible again. Some scientists also believe that afternoon naps can reduce blood pressure. In fact, a study performed at the European Society of Cardiology showed that participants who napped for an hour or more each day reduced their dependency on blood pressure medication. Accordingly, one of the biggest benefits of napping could be warding off a leading killer-cardiovascular disease.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control show that your risk of developing diabetes increases whenever you sleep less than six hours per night. Research from the University of Chicago echoes that finding, claiming that sleep deprivation increases the number of fatty acids in your blood. Although researchers agree that too little sleep can be a precursor for diabetes, they also hail the benefits of napping to reverse the negative effects and keep blood glucose levels as even as possible.
If you enjoy an afternoon snooze, take heart because there are plenty of reasons to indulge. The next time you feel guilty for wanting an afternoon siesta, remember these benefits of napping and you may not feel quite so bad for nodding off after all.