Wake up to nap time - USA Today
By Kim Painter

Jill Murphy Long of Steamboat Springs, Colo., used to sneak naps. Her husband, she says, would occasionally find her asleep in the middle of the day. "He'd say, 'What are you doing? Are you sick?' "

The experience led Long, a former advertising executive turned yoga and ski instructor, to write a book for other tired women, called Permission to Nap. It was published in 2002.

But these days, just about anyone who craves a midday snooze can find plenty of encouragement. Just in time for next week's switch to daylight-saving time, which can mean a lost hour of nighttime sleep and some sleepier-than-usual days, consider the following:

•Greek adults who took regular naps were significantly less likely to die of heart disease than those who didn't in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in February. Working men benefited most.

•Fast-living New Yorkers are paying $12 and up to nap at trendy sleep salons, the New York Times reported recently. One company, MetroNaps, sells and rents napping pods — reclining, hooded chairs equipped with dimming lights and noise-blocking headphones — to airports, hospitals and corporations.

•A psychologist who has spent her career studying naps is promoting a new book, Take a Nap: Change Your Life (Workman Publishing), which says napping is an underappreciated route to health and well-being.

"There's always time for a nap," says author Sara Mednick, a researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. The payoffs, she says, can include improved alertness, memory, physical performance and mood. And the new heart disease study adds to research suggesting long-term benefits.

Mednick advocates customized nap schedules for people with various needs — including emergency workers and doctors in training who must resort to "extreme napping" at all hours. But for most folks, the tried-and-true afternoon snooze — whether you call it a power nap or a siesta — will work wonders, she says. In general, she says, naps of five to 90 minutes are best.

Mednick says such naps, taken on couches and floors and even in her car, got her through graduate school and continue to be part of her days.

For the most part, doctors who specialize in sleep applaud the idea of a napping revival.

"We all have a normal physiologic dip in alertness in the afternoon. Our bodies are inviting us to sleep at that time," says Michael Sateia, professor of psychiatry and chief of sleep medicine at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H. "Millions of people have, for centuries, tapped into this."

Joseph Ojile, managing director of the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, says: "Sometimes going with biology is a very healthy thing to do."

But, the doctors caution, not everyone should nap — at least without talking to a physician first. People who have chronic insomnia — trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or awaking rested — might make their problems worse by sleeping during the day, they say.

Sateia notes that most true insomniacs are lousy nappers, anyway: They are conditioned to become alert when they try to sleep, no matter what time it is or how tired they are. (The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has tips for people who have trouble sleeping at www.sleepeducation.com/Hygiene.aspx.)

Excessive napping can signal other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea (interrupted breathing that disturbs sleep and leaves people exhausted), Sateia adds.

In any case, healthy adults whose schedules allow it should be doing most of their sleeping — about eight hours — at night, the experts agree. "We don't want people sleeping four or five hours a night and trying to make up for that with napping," Ojile says.

But if you just need a boost before your last meetings, classes or car-pool rounds? Permission granted.


Take a Nap author Sara Menick tells novice nappers to:

• Schedule a nap time and stick to it.

• Silence your cellphone and get away from your computer.

• Turn up the thermostat or cover up with a blanket or coat. (Daytime sleep requires more warmth than nighttime sleep.)

• Get comfy. If a bed isn't an option, at least put up your feet and support your head.

• Skip caffeine four hours before nap time.
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