Saturday, December 19, 2009
Napping and the Biological Clock
I took a nap. I had to quiet that voice within saying no, guilt-trip, too much to do, etc. I felt so wonderful all cozy under the warm blanket, well cared for. Take a nap. Let it all go for a bit of a lazy afternoon. Look what the experts say and don't feel guilty!
Contrary to popular belief, except for insomnia sufferers, a brief afternoon nap does not necessarily interfere with nighttime sleep. In fact, an afternoon nap may be perfectly compatible with a finely-tuned biological clock. For most people, the sleep/wake cycle includes being awake for about 16 hours and then asleep for about eight. But what many people don't realize is that the body's clock is set with two distinct dips in alertness within a 24-hour period: one at about 2:00 am and another at about 2:00 pm, corresponding to the midday dip. Fighting off the urge to sleep during these times is challenging, especially for someone already suffering from sleep deprivation.
Gregory Belenky, MD, Research Professor and Director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, recommends naps as a way to make up for lost nighttime sleep. He says, "The beauty of naps is that they add to total recuperative sleep time," adding that "A large number of the world's people divide their sleep into two blocks (with the afternoon sleep called a siesta in Spanish-speaking countries). It is even possible that divided sleep is more recuperative than sleep taken in a single block."