The Art of Napping; Coping with Lockdown and Boosting your Body
I have said many times, “I can sleep on a washing line” although I have never actually tried it. Give me a journey on a train, plane or automobile (as long as I’m not the driver) and I can be asleep within minutes. Sleeping is definitely something I’m good at, but does it benefit your health and help boost your immunesystem? In my case, I use it to reset, recharge and reboot when I’m having a busy day or feeling mentally jaded, especially during lockdown when I’m entertaining two kids under 5! I have always been a ‘Napper’. I used to nap after lectures, before Netball training at Uni. At my first job in an office in town, I would have a power-nap in the medical room at lunchtime and feel fresh for the afternoon of data entry (yawn!). I would nap in between clients at the clinic any chance I got! When my babies nap, I nap – the housework will always be there! I find, when I wake up I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, alert and ready to crack on without the need for more caffeine. Napping isn’t for everyone and there is research showing that some people might not benefit due to how their sleep patterns work and if they go into a sound sleep and wake up this can leave them drowzy and groggy, but you don’t know until you try! I find 30-45mins is about right to recharge my batteries.
A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. Now this sounds amazing, but if you think it’s ‘lazy’ or ‘cheating’ to have a nap and just down another coffee, you might be doing yourself a disservice! We know that too much caffeine can raise blood pressure, effect weight gain and blood sugar levels and adversely effect our immune system because of raised Cortisol (stress hormone) levels, so instead of reaching for the coffee, why not try a nap if you can? I know it’s not possible for everyone if you have children to care for, but if you can have 40 winks, you’ve definitely got the time to experiment as you haven’t got to be anywhere at the moment! Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond. (Sleepfoundation.org). The best ways to improve immune function are healthy eating, 8hrs+sleep at night, reduced stress if possible, regular exercise and reducing your sugar and alcohol intake (tricky, I know!!).
Napping can benefit you in so many other ways. If you are looking to improve productivity, creativity, cognitive function, alertness, focus or if you’re just trying to make it through a long day with patience, good humour and positivity, naps have been shown to improve mood and mental capacity. We are inundated with stimulus all day long, from people around us, phones, computers, T.V., radio, it is nearly impossible to switch off. That is where napping has it’s place – it allows us to switch off. If you’re not a ‘napper’ then do some meditation or mindfulness, de-regulate your body and reduce the stimulus around you. Close your eyes, relax your tense muscles, clear your mind as best you can, listen to nature around you, listen to your heart beat, feel the rhythm of your breath. This grounding exercise in your body can help your nervous system, your immune system, your blood pressure, your emotional and psychological state to reset.
There is so much going on in our world now and I feel that we are under more pressure to utilise the time we have sat at home to take on the world, do all the jobs we didn’t get time for, learn that language! Well being still, reflecting, resting and feeling grateful is also really important. To the people out there with young families like me, just making it through the long days emotionally unscathed is a result! For those who are lonely and bored, I feel for you, because you’re under the most pressure to be productive, but take your time, use this time to pause and evaluate what is important to you. You have the time, take the nap, exist and be present in the moment because when normality returns the world will speed up and we will have missed our chance.