Thursday, July 30, 2009

Importance of naps

One sleep expert said naps "should have the status of daily exercise."

Catching a few extra winks, even in nontraditional places, can have its benefits.

A television cameraman takes a nap at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

July 30, 2009
A Look at Who Naps
By Sam Roberts

Wake up, America! Fully one in three adults admit that on any typical day they take a nap, according to a national survey released Wednesday.

I try to nap every day.

The proportion of self-proclaimed nappers was even higher among adults who had trouble sleeping the night before and who had exercised within the past 24 hours. It was also disproportionately higher among people who are poorer, black, men older than 50, men and women over 80 and among people who are not happy.

I am an adult, do not often have trouble sleeping, do exercise, am not poor or black, am a man, and I'll leave it at that.

The Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey of daily activities found that people who were unemployed were more likely to nap during the week than on weekends and that those with jobs were only slightly more likely to nap on weekends.

The survey also asked whether people had trouble sleeping, presumably at night. Women were more likely to, as were people who make less than $20,000 a year and those who, regardless of their income, were dissatisfied with their personal financial situation.

The survey did not precisely define what constitutes a nap. Some people claim they are just resting their eyes when they are really snoozing. Others may doze momentarily when reading articles about demographic trends. Still others are driven to nod off briefly by the swaying of their bus or commuter train.

“Are we accurate reporters of our own habits?” said Paul Taylor, the Pew center’s director. “If you asked my grown children whether I nap, their answer is yes. Their defining image of me is in an easy chair with a newspaper in my lap, dozing off. If you ask me, my answer is no. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.”

Napping is still often stigmatized, for example by being associated with illness or a lack of ambition.

But many people, and experts, praise the benefits of a siesta or a power snooze. Confessed nappers include Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Napping, writes James B. Maas, a Cornell University sleep expert, “should have the status of daily exercise.”

Mammals that divide their day between two distinct periods — sleep and wakefulness — are in the minority, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which pointed out on its Web site: “While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.”

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