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In some places, towns essentially shut down in the afternoon while everyone goes home for a siesta. Unfortunately, in the U.S.—more bound to our corporate lifestyles than our health—a mid-day nap is seen as a luxury and, in some cases, a sign of pure laziness. But before you feel guilty about that weekend snooze or falling asleep during a movie, rest assured that napping is actually good for you and a completely natural phenomena in the circadian (sleep-wake cycle) rhythm.

As our day wears on, even when we get enough sleep at night, our focus and alertness degrade. While this can be a minor inconvenience in modern times, it may have meant life or death for our ancestors. Whether you are finishing up a project for work or hunting for your livelihood, a nap can rekindle your alertness and have your neurons back up and firing on high in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

Big name (and high-dollar) companies recognize this. Google and Apple are just a few that allow employees to have nap time. Studies have affirmed that short naps can improve awareness and productivity. Plus, who wouldn’t love a boss that lets you get a little shut-eye before the afternoon push?

A study from the University of Colorado Boulder found that children who missed their afternoon nap showed less joy and interest, more anxiety, and poorer problem solving skills than other children. The same can be seen in adults that benefit from napping. Researchers with Berkeley found an hour nap to dramatically increase learning ability and memory. Naps sort of provide a reboot, where the short term memory is cleared out and our brain becomes refreshed with new defragged space.

So how long should you nap? sleep_naps   Experts say a 10 to 20 minute “power nap” is best for refreshing your mind and increasing energy and alertness. The sleep isn’t as deep as longer naps, which allows you to get right back at your day upon waking. A 30 minute nap can lead to 30 minutes of grogginess, as you are often waking just as your body enters the deeper stages of sleep.

You’ll experience some of that same fogginess if you sleep for an hour, but 60 minute naps are good for memory boosting. The longest naps—around 90 minutes—are good for those people who just don’t get enough sleep at night. It’s a complete sleep cycle and can improve emotional memory and creativity.

Naps are good for you—physically and mentally. But don’t sacrifice night time zzz’s for an afternoon snooze; take your nap in addition to a good night’s sleep.

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You Need Sleep!!

A Share for EVERYONE – on INSUFFICIENT SLEEP (from an Indian source)

Ranjan Das, CEO and MD of SAP Indian subcontinent died after a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai on Wednesday. One of the youngest CEOs, he was 42

What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India ?

A month ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from Bandra, Mumbai. He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see him run on Bandra’s Carter Road.

Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he returned home from his gym after a workout, collapse with a massive heart attack and died.

It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners amongst us.

Since Ranjan was an avid marathoner ( in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of us were running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away ), the question came as to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years of age.Was it the stress?

A couple of you called me asking about the reasons. While Ranjan had mentioned that he faced a lot of stress, that is a common element in most of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad effects of stress. So I doubted if the cause was stress.

The Real Reason

However, everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep.

The Evidence

Last week, I was working with a well-known cardiologist on the subject of ‘Heart Disease caused by Lack of Sleep’. ! While I cannot share the video nor the slides because of confidentiality reasons, I have distilled the key points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.

Some Excerpts:

Short sleep duration ( <5 or 5-6 hours ) increased risk for high BP by 350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night. Paper published in 2009.

As you know, high BP kills.Young people ( 25-49 years of age ) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Paper published in 2006.

Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks. Paper published in 1999.

Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP), the strongest predictor of heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed high!!

Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL! -6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Paper published in 2004.

Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease.

Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease. Paper published in 2006.

Ideal Sleep

For lack of space, I cannot explain here the ideal sleep architecture. But in brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM ( Rapid Eye Movement ) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM and non-REM stages 4-5 times.

The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During that period, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body. The latter part of sleep is more and more REM type.For you to be mentally alert during the day, ! the latter part of sleep is more important.

No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a complete physical mess ( lack of non-REM sleep ), you are tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie and your immunity is way down ( I’ve been there, done that ).

Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to repair the running related damage.

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