I’ve always been keen on “don’t rest — run.” Often a quick jog after lunch seemed to perk me up and send me back to the studio with a new sense of adventure. Now I’m not so sure. Strictly between you and me, I’m now taking naps.
This follows recent research into the value of sleep, especially short sleep. Sara C. Mednick is a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside. Her studies look at the relationship between napping and performance. Mednick thinks humans have a biological need for an afternoon nap. She’s the author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life.
It’s not just the need, it’s the benefits. In sleep our minds become highly active. In sleep we apparently improve our creative ability by uncovering novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas. Sleep also enhances performance, learning and memory. According to Mednick, after sleep, people are 33 percent more likely to be creative.
Google, Cisco Systems and Proctor & Gamble have now installed Arshad Chowdhury’s “EnergyPods.” These are smart looking recliners with egglike hoods that block noise and light, allowing employees to take naps at work. These companies find that a little sleep helps “reset” the brain to look at things from a different perspective.
According to Mednick, the best time to nap is after lunch. This is the time when most humans and animals experience what is called “the post-prandial dip.” It’s a low-ebb for cogno-processing and physiological responses — when a lot of us actually do feel sleepy. Naps, Mednick found, improve cognitive performance better than caffeine.
I’d be interested if any of our readers have had experience with this. In my case Dorothy the Airedale and I go into the house and nap in a spare room. I read a bit first, preferably something unrelated to art, then I just turn over and snooze. Dorothy doesn’t need to read first. Actual nap time is from 20 minutes to an hour. If the house phone rings, the spell is broken for both of us.
Returning to the studio, I quite often see right away what’s wrong with what I’m doing. Other times I’m driven to start something new. As an early morning riser I’m often petered out after lunch, but I can report that an afternoon nap gives Dorothy and me two days for the price of one.
PS: “There are biological dips in our rhythm and in our alertness that seem to go along with the natural state from way back when.” (Sara C. Mednick)
Esoterica: At least two methods awaken the potential of a nap. One is to pose a problem before you drift off. Notes unanswered on a pad of paper do the trick. Fresh in the top of the mind, the underground mind works on the notes as you snooze. The second is to go to sleep with nothing much on your mind at all (the purpose of neutral reading beforehand) and let the old subconscious mix and match where it will. “‘Scuse me, I gotta’ go.”
Profound sense of well being
by Randy Davis, Killingworth, CT, USA
I have taken naps ever since I was a teen (I now just got my Medicare Card!) and still do. Twenty to 25 minutes reset me for the rest of the afternoon, especially about 4:30 pm. A second wind naturally takes over and I can go till a good 8pm! I sort of follow the Italians in this ebb and flow. Take the afternoon hours off that are energy dips, relax and reboot! I also usually feel a very profound sense of well being at this time also, without the aid of coffee or my favorite beer! Happy Napping!
Unique position required
by Karen Duplisea, Toronto, ON, Canada
I am a big advocate of the nap in the afternoon! When I used to perform as a professional dancer, the whole company used to lie down for 10 minutes after a light dinner and before the application of stage make-up. It’s all in the approach to napping that makes the difference. If you lie down, and put your feet up so that your legs are on a 90 degree angle (calves resting on the seat of a chair), all you need is 10 minutes or so. The benefits are a wonderful resurgence of blood down the legs (great, if you like to stand while painting) and a deep rest, the quality of which, I have never received from a longer nap in a horizontal position on a bed. It has gotten me through my dance career, difficult pregnancies, my present teaching career at a university, as well as my budding, and hopefully future career as a full time painter. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and not the least of which – more time for painting!!
Health benefits of napping
by Dr. Hal Martin, San Antonio, TX, USA
Relative to my specialty of cardiology, there have been several large studies which correlate napping with a significant (up to 35-40%) reduction in the likelihood of developing or dying from heart disease. Napping also helps to lower blood pressure. The best time to nap is after lunch or early afternoon; napping after 3-4pm can impair nighttime sleep. Most of the benefit of napping occurs in the first 20-40 minutes. Slow brain wave sleep usually develops at around 45 minutes and awakening anytime within the following hour may leave one feeling very groggy for prolonged periods and can even cause disorientation, so best to keep naps no longer than 30-40 minutes (unless you can afford to sleep longer than 90 minutes which usually avoids these effects). During my practicing years, if possible I took a 20 minute “power nap” before evening hospital rounds; nowadays, 30 to 40 minutes in the studio around 2pm.
There are 2 comments for Health benefits of napping by Dr. Hal Martin
by Sharon Wadsworth-Smith, Orangeville, ON, Canada
I wake up at 4am with my husband who has to get up early as he commutes to work in the city. That means my day starts before dawn and a lot of the high energy stuff and chores are done by 10.00 am.
My studio hours are between 10-2 but often I start to burn out by about 1:30 so lunch and a nap with my cherished puppy dog, tends to get me energized for the rest of the day. Sometimes I just rest and read a book but it still seems like I have slept. The rest of the afternoon is spent with any marketing or research that goes with the business side of art. This schedule changes if I am painting on location but I still get burnt out at 2-2:30 every day and do not have to look at a clock to know that it is nap time. I unfortunately cannot get back to painting most afternoons but always hope that most of my wide awake time in the mornings is spent productively.
We hit the hay every night at 8pm. If I have to stay up late for any reason, the whole schedule goes out the window! I also heard another good reason for an afternoon nap, and it really is supposed to help us burn calories! Yawn, I feel sleepy!
Naps are about dreaming
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA
This thing about naps is probably about dreaming. I wake up every morning at about 5:00 a.m. My upstairs neighbor gets up about that time. He leaves soon after that, and then I go back to sleep. Then the alarm rings at 6:30. Sweet Alice must wake up and start her day. Before Alice leaves for work, she brings my morning coffee. During these intervals I have the best dreams. I seldom require a nap later in the day.
I thrive on these dreams. Light sleep. I visit with my mother, long deceased. I dream of paintings, not yet done. I dream of my son as a young lad, now forty years old, even as I have three grandchildren close at hand. I dream of paintings. I dream. Dreaming is what naps are about.
There is 1 comment for Naps are about dreaming by Peter Brown
Naptime going to the dogs
by Tinna Knight, Newport News, VA, USA
I have always taken naps. I am a high energy person and I nap between 1:00pm and 3:00 pm every day. I too am an artist and a jogger. After a nap I have so much energy. I have a golden retriever and I baby sit Yorkies. They will come into my art studio and sit and stare at me reminding me it is nap time. We all go into the bedroom, jump into bed, cuddle up and take a nap together. The golden always jumps off and find a place on the floor. My husband has always scolded me for my napping. I just tell him it is what my mind and body needs. He is now taking naps. Napping is wonderful and comforting. Go napsters.
(RG note) Thanks, Tinna. And thanks to everyone who sent photos of themselves napping with their dogs and cats. Very comforting.
Two naps better than one
by Mike Croman, Olympia, WA, USA
I wake early, usually between 5 and 6, have my coffee and very light breakfast and do my daily housework first. By ten, I go to my studio, set up a canvas on my easel, prepare my paints and turpentine, turn on my exhaust fan and radio and then lie down for around 30 minutes. I stare at the blank canvas, close my eyes and take a brief nap. When I awake, I go to the easel and begin my painting with a rough image in my mind of what I want to see by the end of the day. Around 3, I lie down again and nap for about 40-45 minutes, automatically awake, review my painting and proceed to bring it to the point where I can let it set up and expect to do little to it the next day to finish it. I don’t think my days would go well at all without the two naps.
Feeling terrific afterward
by Mary Ellen Bratu, Naperville, IL, USA
I am a practicing artist and a clinical psychologist. I agree wholeheartedly with the power of naps to tap creativity, problem-solving, and general health and well-being. When I’m away from work (which I am right now for the next couple weeks), my body automatically steps into a natural rhythm that includes daily naps, about an hour long. Has been that way since I was a baby, my mom says. I like letting my body do that and I feel terrific afterwards, much clearer and with awareness of greater possibilities. Hope you keep supporting your own body’s need for a mid-day nap. And for the love of God, turn off the ringer! (That act alone, at least for me, brings real delight.)
‘Sleep on it’
by Luis Guillermo Leigh, Ottawa, ON, Canada
I have always liked napping but only recently have taken up exercising – I now bike to my studio three times a week — it certainly helps concentration, and I feel better.
I nap when my body starts to get tired – it rests my body and resets my brain. If I nap for more than an hour, I feel groggy afterwards.
I understand that experiments carried out in a sleep lab left persons to do whatever they liked, whenever they liked, in a room without natural light. They found that people tended to sleep 7-8 hours with a short nap opposite to sleep time, on a 25 hour cycle (called circadian rhythm); they speculated whether the earth had had a slower rotation which humans adapted to in earlier millennia. Sleep is known to help problem solving and creativity. That is why we say, “Sleep on it.”
In the end Robert it is not one or the other when it comes to exercise and napping: you can get the benefits of both running and napping.
From Silicon Valley to Sonoma County
by Kent G. England, Geyserville, CA, USA
Your ‘Take a nap’ story struck a nerve with me. I have been working since I was 9 years old. Naps were never on the schedule. I have pushed myself relentlessly for 40 years of my adult life chasing a fast paced career that finally slowed down in 2008 when the economy died in California. I made the smart move to relocate with my sweetheart to Sonoma County (lots of fresh air and superb wine) from Silicon Valley (lots of fake people and bull#@*$).
Although I am still working too many hours, and have not made the ‘shift’ to the studio full time, we are living an incredibly more enjoyable life… and one of the steps has been this ‘afternoon nap thing.’ Although we don’t get one every day because of our schedule, when we do it makes a big difference for me…
— I feel that I am in control of my life just a little bit more than usual. This decision is my decision, and gives me a sense that I am in control of my life… not the work.
— The naps sets the tone for the rest of the day… yes, it is just as full, but it is more enjoyable because you are more relaxed. Here are your options: You can work ‘a long day’ and be stressed. You can work ‘a long day’ and enjoy it throughout its course. You get to decide. The afternoon nap helps with that!
— Lunch is more enjoyable with Joanna because we are not rushing out the door in two seconds after eating. Sometimes we go out into the garden to get something to add to our plates… the fresh air and sunshine during the day even for a few minutes is wonderful when you have locked yourself in your office building all morning.
— It lengthens my day… work or play (my choice)… because I have more energy and can push harder if I want to in the later hours of the day. I get up between 3 and 5am, so in the afternoon and evening I am not running at the speed that I was in the beginning part of the day. This nap really helps me to be more productive as we move into the evening.
And now for the best part. Sometimes I nap hard… sometimes I drift in and out of sleep. But there is nothing nicer than peeking through one eye when I am lying on the sofa in the afternoon… and seeing Joanna and our two dogs Pearl and Nelly sleeping soundly within a few feet of me… I know that I’m in heaven.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Mo Teeuw of Norfolk and Lincolnshire, UK who wrote, “I tended to feel guilty if I had a nap after lunch but, not any more. In fact I shall make a practice of it.”
And also Louise Metcalfe of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa who wrote, “I love a 10 minute power nap… I search the back of my eyelids for new inspiration. Even if I don’t find any I’m always in a better mood for the sleep anyway!”
And also Marianne Ginsberg of Silicon Valley, CA, USA who wrote, “Napping is a sign of advanced spiritual development. It proves you can let go.”
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