What if I told you that I had the secret to one of the greatest relaxation techniques available today? Something that not only relaxes the body, but also refreshes and invigorates it! Great men throughout history have known the secret, and yet not many people take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to sharpen our minds and improve our spirits. It’s something that comes naturally and we all learned it as infants, practiced it as toddlers, and fight the urge as adults. <!–split–>
The answer is: napping!
There is new respect for the notion of an afternoon nap. The list of famous nappers goes on and on, including Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison. Not a bad club to join! The most common response in America to that mid-afternoon droop is to fight it with caffeine. But your brain is telling you that it needs a rest. And a rest is what will really jump start your system. Studies have shown napping reduces accidents and mistakes, and actually increases productivity. One NASA study showed a pilot’s alertness and performance was greatly improved after a 42-minute nap. Research shows that humans need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Those who receive less than 6 hours of nighttime sleep triple their chances of having an accident. Your internal clock is programmed to make you feel sleepy twice a day—usually between 1-3 pm, and again at night.
Napping is one way to avoid that lethargy in the afternoon. In some cultures, a nap after lunch is a way of life. Timing for your nap is very important. The time to schedule your nap is about 8 hours after you wake up. A nap too late in the day may make it difficult to fall asleep that night. Listen to your body. When you start to feel tired or sleepy, that is the perfect time to take your power nap. The length of your nap is very important too—20 minutes seems to be the magic number. Any longer, and you tend to feel groggy instead of refreshed. Whether you are at home or at work, find a quiet place to stretch out, and just relax. A small blanket may make you more comfortable. Be sure you set either an alarm or ask someone to wake you at the end of 20 minutes. Cell phones have alarms that can be set too. Pick your spot—peaceful, dim surroundings work best. Plan your nap for the time you usually feel sleepy during the afternoon. Don’t worry about falling asleep, try to direct your thoughts to non-work ideas. The more you practice falling asleep for a nap, the easier it becomes. Give yourself a few minutes to really wake up afterward—a good stretch and a drink of water can help.
If you are not in an environment where a nap is possible, or you just cannot turn your brain off and rest, there are other ways to boost your energy.
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night
- Eat a moderately sized lunch, and later eat a snack with a protein and complex carbohydrates (ex: cheese and wheat crackers) instead of a sugary snack or caffeine. Your energy boost will last much longer
- Take a brisk 10-20 minute walk to increase your energy
- Change your activities from passive to active if you can—even if it means walking down the hall to deliver a message instead of an e-mail
The thought that you can rejuvenate your body with something so simple is really quite amazing. So be good to yourself, and you may find a whole new world of energy and creativity opening up to you.
Your Parish Nurse, Kara