The Power of Naps: The Benefits of Napping We Can Learn From Da Vinci

If you are like me, you enjoy taking a nap. Some of history’s brightest figures were known to be big time nappers, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Leonardo da Vinci.

But while da Vinci was undoubtedly a genius mirroring his sleep schedule would not be the smartest move you could make.

Da Vinci’s quirky sleep schedule is legendary.

As an adult, it is believed he passionately avoided getting a full night’s sleep. Instead, he was a dedicated napper, taking 20 min naps every 4 hrs throughout the day. This, of course, only adds up to 2 hrs of sleep every 24 hours.

His thought process was simple: He thought he could not afford to spend 8 hrs sleeping, as he had too much to get done and not enough time to do it. At 1 point, da Vinci famously said “sleep resembles death,” removing all doubt as to how he felt about sleep.

Now, let us touch on the positive aspects of napping, how to take them, and the best times to do it, as follows:

The issues with da Vinci’s no sleep just strictly-naps approach. Getting 2 hrs of sleep on average each day can soon lead to a number of issues. The effects of sleep deprivation include;

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Decreased memory
  • Weight gain
  • An inability to focus
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Fatigue
  • More prone to accidents
  • Weakened immune system

This is not the way to go.

Still, da Vinci was not completely wrong, as there are a number of reasons naps, when coupled with a good night’s sleep, are great for the body and mind.

Now, let us go over the pros and cons of napping:

The Benefits of Napping

Longer naps between 60 to 90 mins offer several health benefits, but it is difficult for most people to find enough time for a long midday siesta.

On the other hand, “power naps,” which take about 20-30 mins, are more practical and provide a number of worthwhile benefits.

Here are a few:

  • Increased Alertness: Short naps increase our awareness level. In one study, NASA found pilots who took naps for about 25 mins showed a 54% improvement in their alertness compared to pilots who did not nap. Those who napped also showed a 34% increase in their job performance.
  • Better Stamina: Naps have been linked to better stamina and athletic performance. Runners who took short afternoon naps showed improvements in their endurance levels that were not found in runners who did not nap.
  • Reduced Stress: we are better able to weather stress with a brief nap. Research indicates naps reduce stress and also help moderate blood pressure.
  • Increased Creativity: Power naps have been linked to increased right brain activity, the part of the brain associated with creativity. Naps can facilitate big-picture ideas and help with visualization, 2 things that can especially come in handy at work.
  • Stronger Immune System: 30 min naps have been shown to boost production of leukocytes, or white blood cells that help the immune system tackle infectious diseases. This is especially useful in Winter, when we’re more vulnerable to catching the common cold and other illnesses.

The Best Time to Nap

There is a biological reason we are usually tempted to take naps in the early afternoon. That is because our bodies are designed to take long stretches of sleep at night, followed by a brief midday rest.
The best time to take a nap is between 1:00-3:00p, when the body temperature drops and your melatonin levels rise. These are the same biological cues the body sends at night when it is time to go to bed. Not only does taking a nap during this time period sync with our circadian rhythm, it helps counteract the fatigue your body experiences after eating lunch.

How to Nap Effectively

Here are a few things to keep in mind before taking a nap:

  • Find A Quiet Space: Silence is essential. Even dozing off in your car for a few mins can be a good option.
  • Turn Off Your Phone: You do not want a text notification nagging at you while trying to rest.
  • Lower Temperature: A cool space helps your body fall asleep faster.
  • Drink Coffee: A bonus pointer that is counter-intuitive. Caffeine is a stimulant and you certainly want to avoid it before going to bed at night. But drinking a cup of coffee before a power nap helps the body avoid sleep inertia or falling into deeper stages of sleep, and maximizes alertness for when you wake up.

What to Avoid When Napping

Naps bring a lot of benefits, but do not overdo it. The Key is to avoid napping for more than 90 mins. Excessively long naps throw off the internal sleep/wake rhythm and can interfere with the ability to get a full night of rest. A good nap should leave one more alert and ready to tackle the 2nd half of your day. Also be sure to avoid taking your nap too late in the day since it will impact your sleep cycle.

Next Steps

Our understanding of sleep has come a long way in the 501 years since da Vinci passed away.

Yet his strong belief in the power of naps has been proven correct time and time again in recent years. And to his credit, da Vinci actually had half of the equation down: 20-30 min power naps, as we’ve seen, come with a variety of benefits. He was just missing the other, essential part of the formula, which is getting a full amount of sleep each night.

Finding time for a midday power nap is a great way to jumpstart the 2nd half of the day, feeling refreshed, less stressed, and more alert.

Be sure to try working a nap into your daily routine, you will be happy with the natural boost it provides.

Eat health, Be healthy, Live lively


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