By Erika Nakayama
When feeling weary, school life can be a daily battle with sleepiness. Many students might have had the experience of nodding off during class and waking up to find worm-like scribbles sprawling all over their notes at least once. One of the major cause for this is lack of sleep during the night. In fact, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Aino University, 60% of its students sleep for 6 hours or less, and one- third of them sleep less than 5 hours, which is far below the recommended 8 hours. The most effective cure is obviously to get more sleep during the night, but that is actually not the only way. Napping is also a surprisingly effective way to get rid of sleepiness.
Napping has long been considered a symbol of laziness, and many people think it is for young children, elderlies, and the ill. However, it has been proven that it actually has numerous beneficial qualities. According to an 2012 article from online magazine “Bit Rebels,” napping does not only increase alertness and stamina, but also enhances performances and mental abilities, elevates the mood, increases physical health, and improves the quality of interactions. Moreover, it also improves the quality of sleep during the night, enabling one to fall asleep quicker and to stay asleep throughout the night. Politicians such as Napoleon, Bill Clinton, and Margaret Thatcher, and geniuses such as Edison, Einstein, and Da Vinci are known to have had regular naps. Big companies such as Google and Nike acknowledges these benefits of napping, and they promote napping at work by having designated rooms or areas for napping.
The National Sleep Foundation (2014) mentions some downsides to napping. First of all, naps can cause a state called sleep inertia, especially when in last more than 20 minutes. Sleep inertia is a groggy and dizzy feeling that accompanies awakening from deep sleep. Most of the times, it lasts only up to 30 minutes, but it can be problematic if there is a need to take certain actions right after waking up. Secondly, although they do have beneficial effects as mentioned above, naps can have a negative effect on sleep at night if it is taken too long or at the wrong time in the day.
However, these problems can be avoided by choosing the appropriate length and timing of naps. There are mainly 5 types of naps, distinguished by their length of time. The shortest one is called the “nano- nap,” which only lasts for 10 to 20 seconds. It is still a mystery whether this type of sleep is beneficial or not. A nap for 2 to 5 minutes can be classified as a “micro-nap,” and it is said to be quite effective in getting rid of sleepiness. A 5 to 20-minute long “mini-nap” has some more beneficial points, also increasing alertness, stamina, motor learning, and motor performance. The best type for fully eliciting the benefits of napping is the 20 minute long “power nap.” It has the combined benefits of both micro and mini-nap, and in addition, it also organizes inside one’s mind and enhances long-term memory. A nap this short can also avoid sleep inertia. The last kind, a 30 to 90 minute long “lazy man’s nap,” goes through a complete cycle of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-REM). This kind of nap is great for recovery of bones and muscles, but it is also likely to cause sleep inertia.
Knowing some tips can also maximize the benefit of naps. Jennifer Soong’s article in “Web MD” and the National Sleep Foundation’s website offers some advice. The best timing to have a nap is between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. If it is too later than this, nighttime sleep might be affected, and if it is earlier than this, the body may simply not be ready for more sleep. Securing a comfortable environment to sleep is also essential. It is best to choose quiet places as napping places and to avoid having light in the face by covering the head with a jacket, hat, or other items. Consuming caffeine will make it easier to tune in to whatever activity you have to do right after the nap.
School life is the last time when all the time one has is reserved just for oneself. One way to make it exciting as possible is to be fully alert when enjoying student life. All it takes is a few minutes in a quiet place… What are you waiting for?
Erika Nakayama is a second-year student at the University of Tokyo.