The benefits of napping during the day
by Matt Hodges
02 September 2015
Eat, sleep, train, repeat; there’s a reason why this is the mantra of some of the most successful professional bodybuilders.
When you’re serious about health and fitness, you know that everything can affect your performance – what you eat, how you train, and when you rest.
Your body needs regular rest in order to recuperate and repair any muscle damage that has occurred during the day, but many of us don’t get our recommended eight hours during the night. That’s why most of the world’s top bodybuilders rely on mid-afternoon ‘power naps’ as a key part of their personal training regime.
Here are five reasons why you should be doing the same…
1. Napping increases your testosterone levels
Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone in both sexes (although men tend to produce seven to eight times more than women), which is known to increase muscle mass and bone density. Many studies have shown that testosterone levels tend to be higher in the morning than in the afternoon, and thousands of men schedule early morning workouts for that very reason.
However, it’s not the time of the day that influences your testosterone levels – it’s the quality of your sleep.
During the night, you’ll typically sleep through the REM cycle (the part where you dream, and where you can still be susceptible to exterior noises), and enter the Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) cycle. During SWS, your body is able to perform its natural functions uninterrupted, and testosterone production is one of these.
It’s very possible to reach the SWS stage while you nap, as long as you give yourself enough time (at least 40 minutes) to fall into a deep sleep.
2. Napping triggers growth hormone production
Something else happens while you’re in the SWS stage – your body releases an extra growth hormone which works specifically on repairing muscle tissue, and metabolising fats. Essentially, your body is continuing your workout while you rest, meaning that the time you spend sleeping is just as important as the time you spend at the gym!
Studies have shown that late afternoon naps (between 4pm and 6pm) are more likely to result in SWS sleep than naps taken in the morning, so time your sleep accordingly!
3. Napping reduces stress
Stress is one of those invisible risks that can creep up on you and do serious damage to your health. People who follow high-stress lifestyles can be more susceptible to heart disease, weight gain, mood swings and high blood pressure. But when you sleep, you’re temporarily immune from the stresses of day-to-day life, and your body has a chance to reset and relax.
If you’re too tense to sleep, treat your nap as though it’s an unmissable meeting and schedule it into your diary. Block out sound and light with earplugs and a sleeping mask, and set an alarm.
4. Napping improves your memory
When you’re in the SWS stage, your brain is able to work to store recent memories away in the neocortex and solidify your existing long-term memories. By napping, you’re giving yourself the chance to retain even more of your short-term memories and make room for new ones when you wake.
5. Napping makes you more alert
When you’re sleep deprived, your reaction times are slower. That makes it harder to really give things your all, either at work or at the gym.
A few years ago, NASA published a study, which proved that a 40-minute nap could increase alertness by 100%. Simply by taking a brief sleep once a day, you can ensure that you’re operating at your full potential during your every waking hour.