FANtastic news: Naps make you smarter, nicer

Finally, a scientific explanation for how some of us of a certain age have gotten so much smarter than others over the years.


Some wise cultures around the world with high noontime temperatures have midday breaks for a whole hour or two called siestas, which is Spanish for “four commutes a day.”

When many Americans were younger, naps were punishment or an enforced rest to allow a presiding adult to grab some ZZZ’s too. Decades later, naps have become like delightful little vacations.

Now, it turns out, naps are not only restorative, especially if you haven’t slept well at night. But they also improve mood (check), physical performance (meh),  even the ability to learn (check) and enhanced memory (can’t remember).

This all sounds so good that it might not be totally true. But we’re going with select health literature that says it is.

Most Americans employers have this crazy notion that they’re paying to work, not sleep. So, you’re supposed to power through those dozey times after lunch when the eyelids have a lazy mind of their own.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that short naps like 10 minutes are the best for maximum benefit and least wake-up fog. Some of us do not mind such half-awake moments. They remind of a Saturday morning which by the wais now only two days away.

One study a few years ago found:

The benefits of brief (5-15 min) naps are almost immediate after the nap and last a limited period (1-3h).

Longer naps (> 30 min) can produce impairment from sleep inertia for a short period after waking but then produce improved cognitive performance for a longer period (up to many hours).

The time of day that seems to produce the most benefits is early afternoons.

And another key factor is that nap benefits increase most when they become regular events, as in a habit at roughly the same time of day. The body gets into its own rest rhythm.

That means that you won’t get much benefit from a snooze during tonight’s second two-hour Democratic primary debate. Other than not having to listen.