Everyone goes through different daily struggles, some more strenuous the others. Some people are living with different health conditions that may leave them feeling weak and exhausted all the time, and a nap would usually help them to regain a bit of strength.

Most people would try to find a hidden place to take a nap. It isn’t merely about isolation from noise to get a good crash; they just don’t want to be seen. This isn’t right. Napping is a refueling and energizing process [1]. It’s completely normal to take a short break from activities.

You shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that you are experiencing fatigue and exhaustion, either due to daily stress or a medical condition. You’re not a battery-powered robot.

Multiple sclerosis: Don’t let the exhaustion kill your dreams

A.M Bostwick, a contributor on The Mighty, shared an enlightening post on her struggle with chronic exhaustion from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) [2]. She hadn’t always been a napper, right from her toddler days. She’d been an energetic kid and teenager, up until her twenties when she was diagnosed with MS.

Napping was never high on my priorities as a kid, or even as a teenager,” she wrote. “I worked several jobs, I took care of various pets, I had school and a social life. I liked to run and hike. I loved art and books. Multiple sclerosis (MS) changed all that in my early 20s. While I didn’t know what it was at first, I suddenly found myself lying across the bench seat of my truck between college classes and assignments at work and going to sleep. I was exhausted. I hid that exhaustion like one might hide a scandalous affair.

Despite making several lifestyle changes and taking better care of her health, the exhaustion got worse as the years wore on. The fatigue began to take huge tolls on her overall health, and she was fast going down the drain. She regained a bit of her vitality when she accepted that there is nothing ring in taking frequent naps during the day, according to what her body needs. She explains that while she’s no longer able to do most of the things she used to do, she hasn’t given up on completely.

I write. Blog posts and novels, short stories and emails,” she wrote. “I walk. I jog. I read. I have a cat. I have family and friends. I have a lot of appointments to attend and a serious disease to manage. I paint, and I draw. I also nap. Every day, if I can. I used to hide it, like a dirty little secret. I would not admit it to anyone who knew me. I was ashamed. I’m not anymore. My body needs it, and I work at maximum capacity when I take the time to sleep awhile every day. It makes me my best self.

Naps are beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing

Bostwick used to be afraid of her chronic need for naps, but she’s finally learned that she CAN nap whenever she needs to. It’s OKAY to nap. There’s NOTHING wrong with giving your body the rest it needs. Rest if you’re tired. Nap when you feel excessively exhausted.

According to Dr. Sara Mednick in her book, Take a Nap! Change Your life, “Daytime naps can be one way to treat sleep deprivation. You can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping. You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance.”

Below a few health benefits of taking naps:

Naps help to boost the immune system

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that chronic exhaustion and sleep deprivation can leave a person with a weak immune system and neuroendocrinal dysfunction [3]. The participants were 11 healthy men who had normal bodily functions at the time of the study. They were subjected to a night of only two hours of sleep. Blood and urine tests the followed day showed elevated levels of norepinephrine. This hormone triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response in times of danger and distress, also released when the body is under extreme stress.

When one group of the participants were allowed to take several 150-minute naps the following day, the norepinephrine levels were normalized again, as though they’d never been stressed in the first place.

Naps improve you day-time alertness

Taking frequent 10-minute naps throughout the day helps to boost a person mental alertness and vitality. Several 10-minute naps are actually better than a few 30-minute naps. Scientists have discovered that shorter naps are more effective than longer ones.

An excerpt from a 2006 study reads [4]: “The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes. The 30-minute nap produced a period of impaired alertness and performance immediately after napping, indicative of sleep inertia, followed by improvements lasting up to 155 minutes after the nap.”

Naps help to improve the memory

Albert Einstein reportedly slept for 10 hours a night, and he didn’t play around with his daytime naps.

You increase your memory capacity and boost your brain power when you catch more naps during the day. Sleep has been found to play a significant role in the consolidation of human memory. You remember more when you sleep more often.

A 2010 study published in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory showed that frequent naps help to improve the processes of the associative memory, the part of the brain that enables a person to connect unrelated objects and items [5]. Results showed that at the end of a memorizing task, those who had a 90-minute nap prior to the task were able to retain more information on the face-object match that those who did not.

In conclusion, naps make you healthier, stronger, smarter, and more alert. You are more productive when you are less exhausted, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that you’re not super-human. Really, you aren’t. Catch a quick nap when you need it. It’s a part of self-care.

References:

  1. Six ways to review your energy“, Harvard Business Review. December, 2010.
  2. “There Is No Shame in Napping When Your Body Needs It”, The Mighty. April, 2018.
  3. “Napping Reverses the Salivary Interleukin-6 and Urinary Norepinephrine Changes Induced by Sleep Restriction”, Oxford Academic. March, 2015.
  4. “A Brief Afternoon Nap Following Nocturnal Sleep Restriction: Which Nap Duration is Most Recuperative?”, Oxford Academic. June, 2006.
  5. “Daytime napping: Effects on human direct associative and relational memory”, Pub Med. February, 2010.
  6. “Multiple Sclerosis”, Mayo Clinic.
  7. Dr. Sara Mednick
  8. Epinephrine and Norepinephrine“, Lumen Learning.
  9. “Associative Learning and the Hippocampus”, American Psychological Association. February 2005.
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