The value of a nap

i-3483f40f754ab28f6576d216daebb24d-2-5-7 naps.jpg A cup of coffee or a nap? Which would you prefer to get you through the hump of a tiring workday?

While the cup of coffee may seem more practical, taking a midday nap is becoming more convenient in New York City.

The New York Times recently wrote about a spa in New York City (called Yelo) that has started selling 20-40 minute naps for stressed out professionals and executives from $12 a session.

While the idea of paying for a nap (which can be had for free) may be absurd, it begs the question:

Is there any health value to taking midday naps?

Some scientists agree, as I discovered in this Science News article. It highlights a paper published in the 2002 issue of Nature Neuroscience, where scientists found that napping may improve one's ability to learn complex things by refreshing specific neural circuits involved in perceptual tasks.

NASA scientists also believe in the power of naps. NASA astronauts are recommended to take naps to combat sleeplessness which can lead to "irritability, forgetfulness and fatigue," qualities that are not desirable for astronauts managing complex shuttle controls.

Still, little is known about how naps affect the body's cognitive functions.

NASA scientists have done some studies and found that, in general, taking naps may improve our working memory but doesn't improve much our vigilance and basic alertness.

Other scientists disagree with the idea of napping. Dr. Gerard T. Lombardo, the director of the sleep center at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, who was interviewed in the New York Times article, advises "against naps because they may disrupt the normal nighttime sleep cycle." Instead, he recommends daytime exercise as a remedy.

At the end of the day, it seems that for a nap to be useful it must occur at the right time and be of the right duration. NASA explains that naps are a double-edged sword and sometimes napping can leave you feeling even drowsier than before.

Selling sleep (sleeping aids, sleeping pills etc) is a multibillion dollar industry so it should come as no surprise that spas have gotten in on the act. Afterall I must admit-I too, would pay $12 for a great nap.

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By Asci Bhatt (not verified) on 24 Feb 2010 #permalink