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Ride the Zzz Wave

Ahh, naps. Weekends were made for them and we spend weekdays wishing we had time for one. Often, we try to replace sleep lost to late-night study sessions with these glorious daytime snoozes. But why do some naps succeed in making you feel alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic, while others leave you feeling groggier than when your head first hit the pillow?

First of all, naps are like people. They have personalities. Sometimes your nap is short, sweet and refreshing. It’s like a friend who you don’t get to spend much time with, but who inevitably makes you feel better about life every time you do hang out. Then you’ve got the naps that linger around, forcing you to press the snooze button ten times and miss class. They’re like a clingy 3-year-old cousin that wants “JUST ONE MORE PIGGYBACK RIDE, PLEASE?!” And like your brain responds to various people in different ways, the type of nap you take also has varying effects on your body.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends taking short naps to increase short-term alertness while reducing the likelihood that your nap will interrupt a good night’s rest. So what exactly happens to your body during one of these power naps?

Here’s how Women’s Health Magazine describes the cycle:

In the first five minutes, you are no longer conscious, but your senses are still sharp. If someone makes a loud noise, you’ll likely wake up. Your heart rate and blood pressure slow, and that back-and-forth eye movement going on behind your lids ceases.

Throughout the next twenty minutes of your nap, your endocrine system performs a well-balanced dance of increasing cortisol levels (to help you be alert when you wake up) and breaking down adenosine (which promotes sleep to begin with). Your immune system strengthens as well.

If you nap longer than 30 minutes, you’ll enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep at this point. If you do enter REM, it’s likely that you’ll wake up groggy and wanting to fall back into dreamland. However, if you wake up after 25-30 minutes, you should feel rejuvenated and ready to face the rest of the day!

Napping can’t fully compensate for a lacking sleep schedule—getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night will always beat out napping for preventing sleep deprivation.

Hopefully reading this article hasn’t made you want to put all of this information to good use (if it has, let me draw your attention to the previous paragraph!). But, for the sake of practice… quick! Jump into bed! You’ve got 30 minutes—timer starts now ?.

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