Take a Cross-Cultural Nap – by Julian Kaufman

Would my fellow Americans like to take a nap?  We Americans value hard work and when we stop working we feel guilty. We believe that we’re falling behind while others are getting ahead.  And we don’t want to be viewed as lazy or lacking drive and ambition. However, there are many benefits to a nap.

Napping is truly part of our physio-logical make up. We have hormones that control whether we are awake or asleep. In general between 1 and 4 pm or 12 hours from the midpoint of night’s sleep our sleep hormones are winning but we fight this physiological need in the name of productivity.

Physiologically, sleep is an active restorative process. Research conducted by NASA, with astronauts, found that a nap of 26 minutes improved productivity by 34%. Southern Europeans in Italy, Spain and Greece have taken advantage of the nap for centuries.

Sardinia, Italy is a Blue Zone – meaning that the people there have a centenarian rate 30% higher than the rest of the world. The Sardinian men are the longest living men on the planet. They are physically active. They eat a diet of 40%+ fat – good fat derived from olive oil, meat and dairy from free roaming sheep and cows that consume a diversity of grasses, producing a high level of omega three fatty acids which prevent disease. But among the factors that contribute to this long life is the Sardinians’ habit of a daily nap! This restorative process is a stress reducer and the positive effect on stress levels is has a positive effect on length of life, compared to Americans and Northern Europeans.

Rules for the Nap:
• The duration of the nap should be 10 – 40 minutes
• The nap should be between the hours of 1 and 4 pm / or 12 hours from the midpoint of one’s night sleep
• The temperature should not be too hot or cold in the room
• The room should be dark
• The room should be free from noise
• You should lie down
• Drink an espresso or some caffeine before the nap
Benefits of the Nap:
• Increased productivity
• Improved alertness
• Enhances performance
• Reduces mistakes
• Reduces accidents
• Has positive affects on those who suffer from night time insomnia
• Psychological benefits
• Reduction in negative stress hormone cortisol
• Improves learning and working memory
• Reverses information overload stress
• Prevents burnout
• Improves creativity
• Improves mood
• Saves money

Treat yourself to a nap daily or at least begin by trying to incorporate it several times a week. Plan it out and put it in your calendar. Consider your nap as important as eating healthfully and exercising regularly and as important as a scheduled meeting with your boss or client.

Take a lesson from the Sardinians: drink an espresso and take a siesta!

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