The Evolutionary Necessity of a Good Nap

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I’ve long been a huge proponent of taking a good “George Costanza” at work, finding a way to check out midway through the office workday and get some good shuteye.  That 2-3pm crash that we experience, which some attempt to power their way through with ghastly fluorescent energy drinks?  (I was guilty of that tactic for a short period once upon a time.)  That is a simple deficit of napping.  Your mind is trying to shut down for a reason.  Too often, it seems, we totally ignore the messages our body and our intuition send us.

Recent scientific studies have been breaking down exactly why naps are not only a good thing for us, but are, in fact, an evolutionary necessity.   As this Lifehacker article explains:

Slowed reaction times and decreased watchfulness could have meant the difference between life and death for our ancestors (and can still have a marked effect on our own success today). A short nap, even just 15 to 20 minutes, can greatly increase the faculties that increase the odds of survival, so it’s only natural that we’re predisposed to want to sleep.

It would seem 12-20 minutes is the sweet spot.  After that, as I’m sure most of us have already discovered for ourselves, we induce that near-headache-like grogginess that risks keeping us as equally zombified for the rest of the afternoon as we would have been without any nap.

(I would also posit that a good midday nap makes that drive home on the freeway massively safer.)

A University of Boulder Colorado study found that:

Toddlers between two and a half and three who missed a single daily nap showed more anxiety, less joy and interest, and a poorer understanding of how to solve problems.

nap-memoryOn a very physical level, this study from Berkley found that the hippocampus, where fact-based memories are temporarily stored before passing information along to the prefrontal cortex, can actually get filled when the brain is in a sleep-deprived state. Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and the lead investigator of the study, analogized this to an email inbox getting full; until a nap is introduced to clear out the hippocampus, the full “inbox” rejects delivery of any new information.  In other words: that 25-slide PowerPoint your boss just dropped on you at 2pm … sorry, Message Undeliverable.

So, as is often the case, our ancestors were right: eat organic food (they just called that “food”), spend time out in nature, drinks lots of water, and get good sleep.  Because who amongst us wouldn’t benefit from more joy and interest, better memory and problem-solving capacity, greater ability to retain information, and less anxiety?

As a quick plug for how Intuitive Being might be able to help you with any sleep issues … we can certainly help with a lot of the emotional and energetic origins of poor sleep at night.  Anxiety is a sleep killer; our clearing techniques can help you get rid of the emotional origins of that anxiety. 


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