So, you've got a busy day and some very important decisions to make, but you feel tired. You've hit a slump. Do you push through it, have a a coffee and carry on, or take a nap?
Take a nap, of course!
Because the old saying of 'I'll sleep on it' really works! Granny was right all along, and you need a nap if you're tired. Because a good nights sleep helps keep your brain healthy.
Just a nice little nap can improve thinking, mood, memory, and learning, according to recent research from Bristol University. We all know children are a little 'cranky' when they're tired. Maybe we aren't so different now we are grown.. We may have worked hard to hide it, overcome it, deal with it, and act professional, but if we are tired nothing is better for our well-being than a nap.
The scientific research shows it's just better to follow the natural Circadian rhythms of your body and take a nap. Our natural body clock creates a 24-hour sleep pattern using the secretion of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is triggered by darkness and inhibited by light. Especially the blue light emitted by the screens we all love so much now. So lots of us are sleep-deprived nowadays.
Nasa recommends 8 hours sleep a night for astronauts to keep mentally and physically healthy with good cognitive functions (Nasa Science: June 3rd, 2005). We may not be astronauts, but if 8 hours sleep helps mental health let's 'do a moon walk' and aim for it! It's the cheapest, easiest, most natural way to stay well.
Whether you get 8 hours sleep, or not, research shows that Napping helps your brain to work faster, and process information that is not in your conscious mind. So we can use all of the information at our disposal and make better decisions if we 'sleep on them'. (University of Bristol study: Oct 4th, 2018)
But Depression, Anxiety, and Stress can all disrupt our sleep and Circadian rhythms. For example, Cortisol is released in higher amounts when we are stressed, and this can affect our Circadian rhythms, But being deprived of sleep can also be a cause of anxiety, heighten depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue, according to studies.
So many aspects of our normal function are affected by a lack of sleep, or poor-quality sleep. Lower levels of melatonin increase circulating adrenalin and noradrenalin, which may play a part in damage to blood vessel walls and have coronary function implications. But taking regular naps reduces tension and can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Have you ever felt so tired that you were hungry and snacked on all sorts of things you didn't want to eat? That's because when you don't get enough sleep your body can be triggered to produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. So not getting enough sleep may make you put on weight, according to a study from Stanford University! Let's all sleep our way to a better diet.
Having regular naps can be good for your heart, brain, skin, immune system, and may promote muscle-building growth hormones. It could also help your sex drive through the production of testosterone, as well as being really good for general well-being and Mental Health.
So as this week has been Mental Health Week this would be a really good time to make a pledge to lead a healthier life-style to promote good Mental Health. We can start to do this by getting enough sleep and taking naps alongside a healthy diet, good hydration, and regular exercise.
So, what's the best way to take a nap?
When you feel that dip in energy, instead of pushing through, or taking a stimulating drink like coffee, take yourself off to a quiet place, or the car for a nap. Put your alarm on for 15-20 minutes time. If you nap for longer you may wake up feeling groggy. Get comfy, take a few deep breaths, then just relax and let sleep take over if you're tired. Don't worry if you can't sleep at first, just regular relaxation will help you establish a pattern.
If you have anxiety, depression, or stressful problems that make relaxing, or sleep, difficult and want to talk about them just make an appointment with me. Or if you want to discuss strategies to help you sleep, make an appointment and I will help you.
I hope you've had a good Mental Health Awareness Week, and that every week will be a pleasure for you.