What can we give to this organ, the most complex and magnificent in the human body?
What can we give to this organ, the one which serves as the center of the nervous system?
What can we give to this organ which stores memory and processes thoughts?
What can we give to the brain?
After we eat all the good foods and do the exercises, there’s one thing that can rescue us from the day’s hassle, one thing that can cause a reboot so we function better, one thing that ensures we have two mornings a day, leaving us alert and energized with more creativity and improved memory. The brain does deserve this one gift—a nap.
Restarting a computer is the best analogy I can think of to describe how beneficial a nap is to the brain. It’s the feeling when you clear your computer of its current software state and start it over again. It’s the feeling of dumping out all junk and starting afresh. It is inemuri. Inemuri is a Japanese word and practice. It is an act of napping. It simply means “sleeping on the job”, or better expressed as “being present while asleep”. Sleeping on the stairs of a mall, at a train station or at an airport are all instances of inemuri. During the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill slept for four hours at night and two hours during the day, afternoons precisely. Albert Einstein slept for ten hours at night and during the day.
What’s happening to us these days?
We’re trying to be too productive than the time and energy we have can take. A number of people are suffering psychologically and professionally because they not only have inadequate sleep at night but also don’t take naps during the day. A culture we imbibed at boarding school back in the day was to have siesta every afternoon after class sessions. How did we stop that practice as we grew? Daytime naps tremendously improve a number of things:
- sexual performance
Napping helps our brains solidify memories. Napping enables memories to move from the hippocampus to the part of the brain which takes care of higher-order functions, the neocortex. These memories become solidified as they are moved. Remaining in the hippocampus makes them easily forgotten. It can be likened to moving files from a temporary storage (hippocampus) through a process (napping) to a permanent storage (neocortex).
Napping is often used as a general word for short periods of sleep, however, there are different types of naps.
This is a nap taken proactively before getting sleepy. It is observed when one is on a tiring task, or just feels tired. You may also take a planned nap on days you know you won’t sleep early at night.
This is a routine nap taken at a fixed time every day. The body, over time, gets accustomed to this type of nap that even if you get too busy to remember to observe, the feeling comes at that time.
Have you seen anyone park their car, put their head on the wheel and sleep? That’s an emergency nap. It’s the nap taken when you’re so sleepy, you can’t focus on your current activity.
You’re home on leave or on a school vacation and you just want to enjoy yourself sleeping during the day, then you need an appetitive nap. It could even be because you’re bored. This type of sleep is mainly to be enjoyed.
What else should you know?
Like every other good practice, there are negative sides. Napping could be a problem if abuse sets in. There could also be other challenges.
How can napping be abused?
Sleeping too long or at the wrong time of the day can be a problem. A nap shouldn’t be as long as a night sleep. The maximum a nap should be is an hour. When you nap too long, you have sleep inertia—a state of drowsiness and disorientation as a result of excess sleep. This could make you inactive and unproductive for a while. Sleeping at wrong times also leads to disorientation. People who abuse napping usually have problems sleeping at night.
Napping is an essential activity needed for a better functioning of the brain. It`s one of the best natural gifts you can give to your brain. If you sleep uncontrollably for long hours during the day, you may need to see your doctor, as that is not napping. For all those who care to nap, do some inemuri like the Japanese. Place that head on your office desk, lie on a couch, go to a lounge… Whatever you do, ensure you nap.