Photo: nomao saeki / Unsplash
Photo: nomao saeki / Unsplash

Our workaholic society is draining. Studies show that nearly one third of Americans get fewer than seven to nine hours of sleep a night. When the early afternoon slump hits, most people opt for another cup of coffee.

Dr. Damien Léger of the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris hopes that one day, the caffeine pick-me-up will be replaced by a power nap.

Napping, he says, should be “a basic right, not a petty luxury.”

Léger and his researchers at the sleep-research center at Hôtel-Dieu have been studying the importance of napping.

Napping, he says, should be “a basic right, not a petty luxury.”

Chronic sleep deprivation, especially common in night shift workers and those consistently getting six hours or less of sleep a night, increases the risk of many health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, and depression.

Just from personal experience, all of us can probably attest to the short-term affects of sleep deprivation, from drowsiness to an inability to focus to lowered alertness. Instead of an energy shot to pick us up, a power nap may be our best option.

Léger recommends taking a 20-minute nap to avoid drifting into slow-wave sleep, the part of the sleep cycle when the brain starts reconsolidating memories. Waking up in the middle of this cycle can leave you feeling groggier than you were before.

A quick nap has been found to increase alertness in shift workers, as well as improve cognitive performance, creativity, and mood.

A 90-minute nap will take you through the slow-wave cycle, allowing your brain to reconsolidate memories and improve learning. Though you may be slightly groggier after a longer nap, it will help you stay up longer if you’re planning for a long night and it will reduce mental fatigue.

Léger recommends finding a quiet, empty place during the workday where you can reap the benefits of a 20-minute nap. In the long run, a nap will take you further than a cup of Starbucks.