Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On cat napping

     I used to use the expression that "Naps were only for kittens and babies", but admittedly as I've aged, I've grown to appreciate the benefits of short snoozes.

     I'll admit it now, I like a good, short, cat nap.  I've mocked those before who needed them or thought it represented a weakness of character, but now I've come around on the topic and think I am much better on those days that I get to incorporate a short snooze mid-day.  Although humans are
currently monophasic sleepers, meaning that we divide our day into two distinct parts, one of wakefulness and one for sleep, it's interesting to note that 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers who have periods of rest throughout the day.  Scientists aren't even sure that we are meant to be monphasic sleepers as we have portions of the population, for example children and the elderly, who practice polyphasic sleeping and in fact have whole cultures that incorporate a mid-day rest into their days.  I can only speak for myself but I know I am better able to focus, concentrate and execute in the afternoon after I have had a short relaxation period.

     It wasn't always the case, and as mentioned above, I used to think it was silly to need a nap.  My Dad napped when he wanted and where he wanted.  When Dad konked out in his Lazy Boy in the middle of the living room, it was your job to keep the noise down while he slept.  I'm not given that same courtesy when I nap on the weekends, doors slam, people yell, and if I complain, I'm told the
How my Dad slept
right place for napping is my bed, but that's not correct, I was taught better.  The right place for napping is a couch or a chair that is not your normal bed, because you want to differentiate where you get your actual evening sleep and where you take your naps.  One is meant to be less restful and short in duration and the other, if you are lucky, is longer and uninterrupted.  My Mom used to nap right before bed, and my wife does this too.  We'd be watching TV just before 10 at night and soon Mom's head would be tipped back and soft snoring sounds would be emanating from it.   This is actually the bad kind of napping as it could inhibit your ability to sleep when you do go to bed.  The good kind is more often done in the early afternoons or opposite the time when you would normally sleep.    

     On my travel days, it's tough to incorporate a nap into my schedule.  I get up early for flights, like this am, often prior to 3:00 am and then I run all day frequently getting back to my hotel in the late afternoon or early evening.  Those days are tough and I'm wiped out physically and mentally at the end of
This is how I sleep on planes
them.  The work I do those evenings tends to be sub-par, so I'll try to not do spreadsheets and things that require a lot of focus.  I can do repetitive tasks well but my creativity is low and my concentration suffers.  Alternatively, on my home office days, I get to incorporate a short nap into my lunch break.  I've recently read that one of the most productive way to nap is the "caffeine nap".  It works by downing a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage and then immediately hunkering down for a 15-20 minute nap.  The caffeine takes some time to work through your system, so at the same time you would awaken from your sleep inertia, the caffeine is clearing your body of adenosine, the chemical that makes you sleepy, so you wake up refreshed in two different ways.  That's my new favorite way to incorporate a nap and when I go back to my office, I feel the same as I do when I go out to my office in the early morning.  I'm glad I don't 
How I feel if I don't nap some days
work in a corporate or office setting because despite all the scientific evidence there is that shows napping makes you a better employee, there is still a stigma attached to napping that you are "lazy" or "old" if you use naps.  What benefits do you gain,  you may ask?

      Studies have shown that naps can restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents.  Naps improve your working memory, they prevent work burnout and reverse information overload.   They improve your mood and health and they heighten your sensitivity and creativeness.  They may be good for heart health too as a recent study in Greece showed a 64% reduction in deaths due to cardiac disease among those who napped 3 times a week for 30 minutes.  A NASA study on pilots showed a 34% improvement in performance and a 100% improvement in alertness for those pilots that napped 
How Nibbler sleeps
for 40 minutes.  Now I called this blog cat napping, because in my house it's difficult to lay down in a common area without our cat, Nibbler seeking to join you.  There is no stigma attached to Nibble napping wherever or whenever she wants, we all think it's cute when she does it.  I'll close this short blog, defending the practice of non-nocturnal sleeping by mentioning that if you nap, you are in good company (aside from my cat's).  Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Edison and George W Bush were all ardent nappers.   I don't claim to be a world leader or famous inventor, but I do claim that I have this one habit in common with them all, and with that I say "to sleep, perchance to dream"  Good night, I've got a plane to catch and hopefully some zzzz's too.  

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