On a trip to Goa, popularly known as the beach paradise of India, I was astonished to see how afternoon siesta has become a notable part of Goan culture. Most of the shops, commercial establishments are closed at noon, generally from 2 to 5 pm for siesta. This legacy was inherited from Portuguese who ruled Goa for a significant period. Portugal being the neighbor of Spain religiously follows the afternoon siesta practice. Siesta stands for a short sleep that people take in the afternoon mostly in countries with warm weather to avoid the midday heat.
Did you know there is a National Siesta Championship held in Madrid every year since 2010? The idea is to promote the health benefits of napping. Winner takes home a handsome cash prize too! Now that is a competition one would not mind participating in!
Is it good to sleep in the afternoon?
The general assumption that afternoon naps are for elderly, sick or toddlers is incorrect. Taking a power nap in the afternoon is beneficial for many reasons –
- Boosts your memory and learning ability – According to a study conducted by researchers at the Saarland University in Germany, a short daytime nap boosts brain power significantly.
- A quick nap relieves your stress – Sometimes sleep deprivation increases your stress levels, a short nap reduces stress and anxiety. It calms you down.
- Mood enhancer – A quick nap clears your mind and lifts your spirits, it puts you in a calm and good mood.
- Boosts immunity – Lack of sleep plays havoc with your immune system. A good night’s sleep and a power nap at noon strengthens your immune system.
- According to a study, a short afternoon nap lowers your blood pressure.
- Makes you more alert and attentive.
- Relaxes and rejuvenates you – A short nap in the afternoon reduces fatigue and relaxes your mind and body.
- Enhances creativity – A research conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests that napping enhances creative problem solving skills.
- A quick nap renews your energy levels.
- Afternoon nap helps your skin glow. During sleep, blood flows to your skin resulting in a healthy glow when you wake up.
Is sleeping in the afternoon bad for weight loss?
The simple answer is No.
A study by Harvard Medical school has found that people burn approximately 10 percent more calories by napping in the late afternoon and early evening, than in the early morning. There you go, a good reason to catch some shut eye in the noon!
Do naps make you fat? Does sleeping in afternoon increase weight? Most people refrain from taking naps for the fear of gaining weight. Remember, you gain weight when you consume more calories than you can burn. Weight gain depends on various factors like natural aging, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits, inactive lifestyle, hormonal imbalance and slow metabolism.
Lack of sleep is also one of the reasons to put on weight. If you are sleep deprived, your body produces high levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin. It leads you to binge eat resulting weight gain. It is essential every adult gets 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep at night. If your work stretches late into the night, make sure you catch a short afternoon nap to make up for the sleep lost in the night.
It is a myth that afternoon naps slows down your metabolism significantly. Sure, your metabolism is at the optimal level if you exercise rather than nap, but your basal metabolism (it is the energy you need to perform basic life sustaining functions like breathing, blood circulation, brain function etc.) continues with the same pace even when you are resting.
To get rid of that drowsy feeling in the afternoon, some of us reach for junk food, sugary treats, coffee or snacks. Afternoon nap helps to put a curb on your overeating habits. A nap is certainly more beneficial than a caffeinated drink.
Do’s and Don’ts for afternoon napping
Follow some simple rules to make the most of afternoon napping –
- Nap duration – 20 minutes is the ideal nap duration, make sure it does not exceed 30 minutes. Longer nap time takes you to deeper stages of sleep and you will wake up groggy and lazy. It also interferes with your night sleep.
- Ideal nap time – A nap between 1 pm and 3 pm is ideal. Do not sleep after 3 pm. Late evening naps will make you stay awake late in the night which in turn leads to eating late in the night.
- If you have a hearty meal and hit the sack immediately, you will certainly pile on pounds. Napping is not the culprit here! Eat a well balanced meal, do not load up on carbs.
- Lying down soon after lunch disturbs the digestion process and may cause acid reflux. Do some chores, move around for some time before the nap.
- Select a calm, dark and comfortable place to nap. Remember the nap should relax you and not make you more sluggish.
- Stay away from anything that distracts you. Put your phone on do not disturb mode and give a little rest to other electronic gadgets too!
- Give yourself a little time after the nap to wake up and be alert before continuing with your work. Move around a little which helps you get rid of any effects of sleep inertia.
- Take a nap only if your body is sending fatigue signals, do not force a nap.
- For some people reading can be relaxing which puts the mind at ease and helps to fall asleep. If reading extends your nap time significantly it is better to keep that book away.
Do not let the fear of weight gain make your afternoons lethargic and sluggish. Look out for the signals your body sends your way. If a quick nap pumps you up with more energy, go for it. Do not feel lazy for indulging in a nap. Make power naps a part of your healthy lifestyle. A well-rested body and mind helps you work with renewed vigor.