You can’t overestimate the importance of adequate sleep for our health. While sleep scientists might not have every mystery solved just yet, one thing’s for certain — proper sleep quality is necessary for adequate immune function, adequate gut function, and adequate ability to cope with the trials of every day life.
Have you ever found yourself irate or in tears over nothing after a poor night’s sleep? New parents know that after multiple sleepless nights, even buttoning a shirt or tying a shoe can be a challenge, not to mention arguing with a coworker or getting stuck behind someone in traffic driving 4 miles an hour. Without sleep, our stress levels go through the roof. Sleep allows our physical body and emotional selves to reset and restore. It boosts our immune system and protects us from microbial invaders on multiple levels.
But what happens if you just can’t get enough sleep? Whether it’s every once in a while or a chronic problem, we’ve all experienced this one way or another. While the days of all-night study sessions and final papers are behind most of us, aren’t there some nights where you just toss and turn all night, never feeling fully asleep? Do you stay up late with the TV on, bright light blasting in your face, only to wake up completely exhausted the next morning?
Try a Nap
Napping isn’t just for pets and babies. We all need a nap now and then, and a recent study now validates that need with some interesting findings. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has just released a pretty promising study showing the beneficial effects of a 30 minute nap. The saliva of subjects allowed just two hours of sleep indicated lower levels of a protective protein interleukin-6 (antiviral hormone) and higher levels of norepinephrine, one of the first chemicals released during the fight or flight response. Subjects were again allowed only 2 hours of sleep at night, but the following day allowed two 30 minute naps. Both hormonal levels were restored to normal after the naps.
While more research needs to be done, this study provides great evidence that napping can counteract the negative effects of poor sleep quality/quantity. For those with chronic sleep troubles, or even those with challenging schedules (like shift workers), napping could help bolster the immune system and regulate hormonal levels that are disrupted by poor sleep.