Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

Calling time on tiredness: what you need to know about napping

We explore whether a well-planned nap can counter the effects of not getting a full night's rest

In Japan, inemuri, which means ‘sleeping whilst present’, is the term given to those who nap at their desks Getty 
In Japan, inemuri, which means ‘sleeping whilst present’, is the term given to those who nap at their desks Getty 

Do you find yourself feeling drowsy after your first cup of coffee wears off come mid-morning? Rest assured, you’re not alone. The National Sleep Foundation in the United States has highlighted that coffee is the most popular drug in the world, while the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed insufficient sleep a public health epidemic.

Given how many adults struggle to get a full night’s sleep these days, awareness-raising campaigns such as World Sleep Day – which falls on March 15 – have become increasingly necessary to tackle this so-called epidemic. “Time and again, sleep medicine professionals and researchers came up against the belief that sleep was not [being prioritised] enough in personal health and well-being … coupled with society’s 24/7 flow,” says the World Sleep Society, which created World Sleep Day, in its mission statement. “The founders of this awareness event aim to celebrate the importance of healthy sleep.”

How naps are handled around the world

According to the organisation, 46 per cent of sleep-­deprived individuals from the sample groups it has monitored reported making mistakes at work, or needing to skip part of, or a whole work day, to make up for their poor sleep. “Many people sacrifice sleep for other pursuits, but what they don’t always realise is that sleep facilitates learning, memory, creativity, problem-solving and productivity,” says Dr Sarah Rasmi, a psychologist and founder of Thrive Wellbeing Centre.

Many people sacrifice sleep for other pursuits, but what they don’t always realise is that sleep facilitates learning, memory, creativity, problem-solving and productivity.

Dr Sarah Rasmi, psychologist and founder of Thrive Wellbeing Centre

Could a midday nap be the answer to getting through each day with energy and enthusiasm? Historically, the afternoon siesta is synonymous with Spain and Latin American nations, while Italians take their riposo and Greeks their “hours of popular quiet”. The post-lunch snooze also dates back to ancient Islamic tradition. “The practice was recorded in Islamic law and was also written about in the Quran,” the experts at the National Sleep Foundation say on the organisation’s website. Typically, businesses would close for between two and four hours, and working hours resumed once the midday heat had dissipated.

In modern times, the Japanese have reintroduced the trend, bringing it right to the workplace. Karoshi, the term for death by overworking, is considered a legitimate cause of mortality in the ­sleep-deprived nation. Japan is infamous for having the longest working hours in the world, and many employees take to sleeping at their workplaces to catch up on the rest their bodies need, while employers are turning a blind eye to those sleeping on the job. Inemuri, which essentially means sleeping while present, is the term given to those who nap at their desks or even through meetings, and it is perceived not as laziness, but quite the opposite.

In fact, daytime naps are so on-trend in Japan, that for World Sleep Day, coffee conglomerate Nescafe will open a cafe specially designed for people who want to catch up on their sleep at any hour of the day. Located at Oimachi in Tokyo, the space will offer customers a decaffeinated coffee before they bed down (on mattresses that range from soft to firm). Naps can last between 30 and 180 minutes, and guests are offered a fully charged, caffeinated coffee upon waking. In the western world, Silicon Valley is also welcoming our need for naps, with companies such as ­Google installing sleeping pods in its offices for staff who need a little R&R between tasks and meetings.

The ideal length of a nap

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from the London Sleep Centre in Dubai says: “As a general rule, we should not need to sleep at any other time other than the designated nocturnal sleep period.” He suggests that the first course of action for anyone struggling through the day should be to assess their environment and check they’re practising good “sleep hygiene” at night, as our need to nap, he says, is either linked to the fact that we are not sleeping an adequate amount for our bodies to function at 100 per cent, or because our sleep quality is not good enough.

The Better Sleep Council suggests that babies need 16 hours of sleep per day, children between three and 18 need up to 10 hours, adults between 19 and 55 need eight hours, and those over 65 need just six hours per night. However, myriad studies and sleep experts have concluded that every individual has different needs when it comes to sleeping.

In our smartphone-driven society, the demands of our daily lives inevitably results in one of the two Qs – quantity and quality – not being fulfilled.

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from the London Sleep Centre in Dubai

“In our smartphone-driven society, the demands of our daily lives inevitably results in one of the two Qs – quantity and quality – not being fulfilled,” says Ebrahim, conceding that a “well-calculated” midday nap may well be beneficial in both these cases. He explains that our first deep-sleep phase usually starts within five to 10 minutes of falling asleep. This can ­actually be the most restorative part of our sleep cycle, because it’s when our growth hormones are active.

“A 20 to 30-minute nap should get you enough restoration to gain a second wind. But any more than this will result in you entering the deepest sleep stage, which is generally difficult to rouse from,” he explains.

In other words, a midday snooze may well help you to get through each day with energy and enthusiasm, but a long, deep-sleep-inducing nap could have a detrimental effect, leaving you feeling more out of sync than before.

Clean home, better sleep?

Dubai furniture brand Helmii predicts that “clean sleeping” will be an important home decor trend this year. The tips that follow combine the concepts of feng shui and the KonMari method.

The bed should be the centrepiece of the room and should indirectly face the door. Ideally, it should be the only piece of furniture in that space, accessible from both sides, and not pushed up against a wall. Also avoid mirrors if you can.

If you do need to introduce other bigger furniture pieces in the bedroom, ensure that they are simple in style and blend with the decor. The same goes for bedding: opt for natural fibres and light colours, and follow the same colour palette for any rugs, cushions, curtains and walls.

The bed should be accessible from both sides, and not pushed up against a wall, according to feng shui principles. Courtesy Helmii
The bed should be accessible from both sides, and not pushed up against a wall, according to feng shui principles. Courtesy Helmii

Declutter completely. Move all random household items out of the bedroom, while necessities should be stored out of sight. Opt for a bed with built-in storage to stash extra bedding, duvets and blankets.

Effective lighting is also key. You need enough natural light in the daytime, and can use black-out curtains to ensure the room is dark when you’re sleeping. Install dimmer switches if possible, and hang your bedside lamps from the ceiling rather than placing them on side tables, so there are fewer messy wires and ugly plugs to scar the walls.

Choose your art pieces carefully and keep numbers to a minimum. According to the principles of feng shui, the artwork you display in the bedroom should come in pairs, and be romantic, non-violent and warmth-inducing. Avoid paintings with violent energy and aggressive colours. Kondo lovers, who follow the “tidy house, tidy mind” mantra, would advise a decluttered room to better show off the art.

Updated: March 17, 2019 10:35 AM

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