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27 March 2008

Health Tips: Getting your nap on

NAP is not just for toddlers. Napping makes great sense for adults, whether or not it puts you in touch with your inner child. When adults napped between 2 and 4 p.m., one recent study showed, they performed better on tests and had no problems falling asleep at night.

NASA found that military pilots and astronauts who took a 40-minute nap improved alertness by 100 percent and performance by 34 percent, and recent Harvard University research also revealed that college students who napped between tasks performed better than those who stayed awake.

How does napping work its brain magic? "It may protect brain circuits from overuse until those neurons can consolidate what's been learned about a procedure," says Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., coauthor of the Harvard study.

Unless you know the correct way to conduct a daytime doze, however, you could snooze and lose. "Napping can steal the drive for nighttime sleep, so you need to be cautious," says David Neubauer, M.D., associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. "The key is to nap early and short."

By early he means daylight hours, at least five hours before you plan on going to sleep that night (between 2 and 4 p.m. is prime). Any later and your circadian rhythms will kick in, possibly making you feel disoriented upon waking and likely preventing you from conking out come your regular bedtime. As for short, keep your naps to less than an hour; 20 to 30 minutes is enough for most people to get the benefits.

To help stick to this nap-plan, stay out of the sack -- likely not a problem at the office -- since you associate your bed with long periods of rest. Find a quiet couch or carpeted floor where you can lie down. Even shutting your eyes in your office chair for 20 minutes will relax and refresh you. (That's if you can stifle your phone; if not, find an unused conference room.)

Home or work, you'll find that -- just like in kindergarten -- after a nice restorative nap, you'll play much better with others.

Quote for a good night sleep: "I can handle the disruption and still feel rested"

Please sleep well everyone ^@^