You may think napping is just sleeping. But there’s so much more to this afternoon rest!
According to Arianna Huffington, in her book, The Sleep Revolution, research shows that napping boosts your learning power and lowers your blood pressure.
Huffington also reports that older adults who take a thirty-minute nap and engage in moderate exercise can improve the quality of their nighttime sleep.
If you’re not sold on the beauty of napping, consider it a brain-break–a time to mentally reset and prepare for your afternoon work.
Or consider it a time for creative problem solving.
Try taking a current problem to your nap spot. Settle in and let your mind relax (focus on your body and breath). Then drop-in the issue. Like dropping a pebble into a pond, pose the problem to your relaxed mind. Let your mind free-associate and notice what it’s like to swim in the world of the issue without grasping for answers. Let go of any expectations for a solution. Let your relaxed, creative, right-brain play around with the issue. At a certain point, you’ll either find an interesting clue or drift off to sleep or both.
Napping helps you shift into the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). That’s the calm, relaxed zone. If you can spend more time in PNS (i.e. stay calm and relaxed), you’ll have an easier time with your evening sleep.
What we’re talking about is retraining your nervous system.
What’s that? Retrain your nervous system?
Yes, many of us live with a ramped up nervous system that’s always on go go go! This is chronic, low-grade activation of the stress response (fight or flight) which is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). It’s hard to downshift from SNS when it’s a habitual way of being. Taking time to focus on your body, breath and quieting your mind, as one does in napping, is a great start in this retraining.
And if you haven’t heard by now, sleep has ssssoooooo many health benefits! It’s your biggest immune booster! The body restores itself when you sleep. Sleep can help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, process stress hormones and reduce inflammation. Sufficient sleep supports mental clarity, improves memory, helps you process emotional stress and wards off Alzheimer’s disease! Clearly, it’s worth spending time to retrain your nervous system in order to get some good quality rest.
For many people, it’s the cultural stigma around napping that keeps them from doing it–you’re lazy and weak if you nap. But if you’re more interested in your health than what people think of you, take the nap!
Right now is peak napping season–summertime! So this afternoon, find a comfortable spot, settle in and tune into the sensations in your body and the movement of your breath. Thoughts will come and go, like clouds in the sky. Let your mind be the sky . . . watching everything arise and pass away.
Michelle Stortz, C-IAYT, ERYT500, MFA, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in cancer and chronic illness. She works in numerous medical settings in the Philadelphia area and enjoys designing custom yoga programs that anyone can do regardless of ability. Michelle also teaches meditation, drawing on both the Buddhist tradition and the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction curriculum. She conducts classes, retreats, and private sessions. http://www.MichelleStortz.com