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The Afternoon Nap, Siesta or Power Nap - a Scientific Explanation of How Good It Is for You

Updated on May 17, 2020
rajan jolly profile image

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

The 2 Nervous Systems

Under permission from the author, kathy789.
Under permission from the author, kathy789. | Source

About The Afternoon Nap

An afternoon nap is a short sleep taken after lunch. It has been variously termed as cat nap, afternoon siesta, Spanish siesta, midday nap, power nap, or just nap. It is the same thing in effect, being termed differently by different people, in different countries and different cultures.

The term power nap was coined by Winston Churchill as he believed it helped him to think better.

Siesta has been traditionally attributed to Spain and other Latin American countries, the Philippines and many Asian countries as well. Essentially, an after lunch summertime rest period, the hot and warm climates are supposed to be the reason for this, as the midday heat is unbearable in many places.

Post lunch the body naturally slows down, one feels lethargic and has an inclination to rest awhile. This slow down is experienced by most and also has a scientific explanation.

The Afternoon Siesta


The Science Behind The Afternoon Nap

Science explains the phenomena of post-lunch drowsiness in 2 ways.

  • After a midday meal, a state of low energy and a desire to take a rest is due to the enhanced activity of the parasympathetic nervous system.

    It is this system that is responsible for the desire to rest and all activities related to digestion like secretion of salivary digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the peristaltic movement of food etc.

    This state of lethargy is directly proportional to the amount of food we consume.
  • Secondly, foods with a high Glycemic index (That which cause a higher rise in blood sugar consequent to eating) cause rapid absorption of glucose from the intestines and in persons who are not diabetics, this results in the extra glucose from the blood entering the tissues to maintain the blood glucose level in the normal range. And this is done by our insulin.

    This insulin however also stimulates the absorption of amino acids, except tryptophan, into the skeletal muscles. This upsets the amino acids/tryptophan ratio in the blood and causes the brain to take up this excess tryptophan which then gets converted to serotonin and then melatonin.

    These increased levels of serotonin and melatonin cause sleepiness.

The Advantages Of Taking A Power Nap

Though a scientific explanation is given for the reason of the body's need to rest after an afternoon meal, the preference to take a power nap or siesta rests with the individual. Sometimes situations arise which do not allow us to take time out for a short nap.

Be that as it may, there are some specific advantages to us by taking a post-lunch afternoon rest. They are :

  • Protection From The Sun

The sun's harmful and destructive rays are at their peak at midday. By taking an afternoon nap we avoid the peak UV radiation which causes sunburn and cancer.

The heat or high temperature after midday is due to the infrared radiation. These cause tiredness, heat prostration, sunstroke and even death.

  • It has been established that afternoon siesta reduces stress, blood pressure and reduces the risk for heart attacks.
  • A short nap of 20 minutes is more like a computer reboot in that it refreshes the brain, relaxes the mind, makes us more alert and improves our capacity to comprehend and learn.

Disadvantages Of The Afternoon Nap

  • It has been found by researchers at the University of Birmingham, and studies at the Guanzhou hospital in China that having an afternoon nap increased the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 26%.
  • Napping by those suffering from insomnia may increase the nighttime waking hours.
  • It might cause an increase in depression and chronic pain in old people since it may affect night time sleep.

Famous Nappers

A few of the famous personalities who were regular nappers :

  • Leonardo da Vinci - Painter.
  • Thomas Edison - Inventor.
  • John F Kennedy - Former President.
  • John D Rockfeller - Oil Industrialist.
  • Winston Churchill - Former President.
  • Lyndon Johnson - Former President.
  • Ronald Reagan - Former President.
  • Margaret Thatcher - Former Prime Minister.

In Conclusion

It has been found that a catnap or afternoon nap of 20 minutes is sufficient to recharge the body without falling into a deep sleep.

One might feel a bit groggy for a few minutes after the afternoon nap but the lethargy will soon wear off and leave one ready to face the rest of the day fresh and recharged.

Do you take a afternoon nap?

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Given a choice would you take an afternoon nap?

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Benefit Of Afternoon Nap

How To Take A Power Nap

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly


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