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Need an afternoon pick-me-up? Forget caffeine. Take a nap.

Saturday, April 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:17 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Taylor Sedano told herself she would finish reading 50 pages of her textbook before drifting off into a deep afternoon nap. She soon felt her eyelids become heavy as she lay on the lavender, blue and white comforter on her bed.

The MU sophomore enjoys snuggling up in bed during the day. But her roommates ridicule her frequent naps. “My roommates have told me that I don’t have enough time to take a nap, and that I’m lazy,” Sedano said. “But I have to sleep a lot or else I don’t feel that I have enough energy to do anything.”

Experts agree that naps can be beneficial, and a 2005 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 55 percent of participants napped one or more times a week.

MU psychology professor Dave McDonald said the majority of the population is relatively sleep-deprived. Napping can help alleviate sleep deprivation — an ailment that causes slower analytical reasoning and reaction times, as well as irritability.

In the book “The Promise of Sleep,” William Dement says ignoring sleep can lead to heart disease and has several mental and psychological disadvantages. Getting just a bit more sleep at night can help.

Nonetheless, naps still have negative connotations to some.

“In the U.S., we place a lot of value on go-getters and multi-tasking,” McDonald said. “And the idea of napping is opposite because it goes against what people prize and value.”

Manjamalai Sivaraman, an MU assistant professor who specializes in sleep medicine and neurology, said he believes negative connotations associated with napping are related to American culture. “In some other cultures it is an acceptable behavior.”

Shops, banks and even government offices in Spain close for two hours after lunch to allow time to spend with friends and family and for the siesta.

Countries in the Mediterranean region have incorporated naps into their day for ages.

“Recent studies in Greece found out that short midday naps lasting less than 30 minutes a day, for at least three times a week, can reduce death from heart disease by 37 percent — especially in working men,” Sivaraman said.

According to The Economist, some of the most successful men in the world were nappers, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein. Buckminster Fuller, the inventor, architect, poet and philosopher, suggested taking a 30-minute nap every six hours.

B. Anne Frey, former president of the Association for the Study of Dreams, provides testimonials about famous nappers on her Web site, “The Wisdom of Dreams”: Winston Churchill napped in the afternoon and former president Bill Clinton retired for 30 minutes of winks at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Contemporary nappers include MU graduate and “The News Hour” host Jim Lehrer and entrepreneur Martha Stewart.

McDonald advises people who nap frequently to keep naps short.

“Napping three times a week for a half hour, 20 minutes or even 10 minutes is a good idea,” McDonald said.

Scientists at NASA did a study on napping and found that taking naps for long periods of time can sometimes leave a person feeling even drowsier than before. If a napper enters deep sleep while napping, it may result in grogginess, which is referred to as “sleep inertia.”

Sedano said that napping has always helped her get things done.

“All my life I have napped. In high school, I worked, played lacrosse and kept good grades,” she said. “Now I still get good grades, play lacrosse, and I’m involved in my sorority.”


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