March 14, 2007

TO NAP IS TO FIGHT IGNORANCE:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-thomas14mar14,0,3011268.story?track=ntottext>Waking up to the benefits of napping: It's science -- our hyper-productive workforce could be better off with a midday siesta (Louisa Thomas, March 14, 2007, LA Times)

MOST DAYS, about 2:30 in the afternoon, I feel myself lagging. My head becomes a little thicker, my reflexes a little slower. I need a nap.

Studies showing that naps improve cognition and response time have been coming out for decades. The most recent, released last month, found that individuals who took half-hour naps at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of death from heart disease.

Five years ago I participated in a study, led by research scientist Sara Mednick, to test whether taking a nap would affect the speed and accuracy with which subjects detected changes in a computer-generated image. The study found that those who stayed awake performed worse over the course of the day, while those (myself included) who took a 30-minute snooze in the middle of the day managed to maintain their speed and accuracy. And those who slept for an hour became faster and more accurate as the day wore on. For me, the benefits of napping aren't hypothetical, they're experimentally tested.

Armed with this evidence, you'd think I'd take more naps. But I don't. I can't shake the sense that napping is slothful and decadent, for the lazy and weak. In a society that places a premium on the appearance of productivity -- even at the cost of actual productivity -- just the impression of wasted time is enough to damn the practice. But it is well established that humans experience a lull around midafternoon, when the homeostatic pressure to sleep briefly overwhelms the circadian signal to remain awake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2007 7:30 AM
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