Napping for your Health

Florence Cardinal Health Guide

    With the hectic lifestyles most of us lead these days, napping has become almost a way of life. Think naps are for sissies? Listen. Even the sports teams are getting into it.


    "A lot of things may change in the NHL," Scott Mellanby of the Atlanta Thrashers says, "but not naps. It's just a part of being a hockey player."


    One complaint from participants in the Olympics is sleep deprivation. With jet lag and getting used to an unfamiliar time zone, lack of sleep is often a problem, and that's not taking into consideration the numerous events taking place. Many have discovered that grabbing a nap whenever possible is the only way to survive.

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    The National Sleep Foundation tells us that if you are experiencing sleep deprivation, your sports performance may suffer.


    According to Wikipedia, "a siesta is a "short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal."


    Studies show that, in the early afternoon, we become less alert and our body temperature tends to drop, similar to what happens to us when our bodies are preparing to sleep in the evening. Many cultures, especially those in hot countries, have a long history of taking siestas in the afternoon, often closing down businesses for an hour or more.


    Is the siesta, then, a natural phenomenon? Research reported in Medical News Today suggests that it is. Scientists at the University of Manchester, in England, have shown that brain cells that keep us alert slow down after we eat. The sugar in food (glucose) stops the brain cells from producing signals that keep us awake. There may also be a link to obesity and eating disorders.


    The siesta originated in Portugal and was adopted by the Spaniards, perhaps as recently as the Spanish American War, but other sources hint at a far more distant origin. The siesta spread to Latin America and the Philippines. It's also a part of the culture of some Asian and African countries.


    Part of the reason for the siesta in the above countries is the heat of midday, but now it appears that the heat wasn't the only reason for the afternoon nap.


    So, if you feel the need for a short nap after lunch, the National Sleep Foundation, the authority on all things sleep, says go for it. It won't hurt, and may do a world of good.


Published On: August 17, 2009