Naps are one of those things that we secretly want to do, especially an afternoon nap. However, none of us ever really end up taking naps, because we feel like we’re not being very productive or because it just feels like too much of a luxury. New research shows that napping in the late afternoon can help boost weight loss. The study shows that people burn more calories (roughly 10%) while at rest in the late afternoon than they do in the morning.
Kirsi-Marja Zitting, who led the study from Harvard Medical School, said: “The fact that doing the same thing at one time of day burned so many more calories than doing the same thing at a different time of day surprised us.”
In the study, the researchers studied seven people in a special laboratory without any clues about what time it was. Each participant was assigned to go to bed an wake up. But every night, those times were adjusted to four hours later.
Jeanne Duffy, co-author of the study, said: “Because they were doing the equivalent of circling the globe every week, their body’s internal clock could not keep up, and so it oscillated at its own pace
“This allowed us to measure metabolic rate at all different biological times of day.”
Dr Duffy added: “It is not only what we eat, but when we eat – and rest – that impacts how much energy we burn or store as fat.”
Usually, when we think of weight loss, we think of burning calories or eating less, and it’s true, you’re not really doing either of those when you’re taking a nap.
But it turns out that one of the reasons we gain weight is because of stress and exhaustion. Stress activates a hormone, known as cortisol, that causes perpetual junk food cravings. Typically in the afternoons, we’re feeling both stressed out and tired. A nap can solve both of those problems. Just taking a 5 or 10 minute nap, around 3:00 or 4:00 pm, will help stave off junk food cravings and reduce the stress hormones that cause your body to hold onto weight.
We’ve previously shared the importance of sleeping between 7-9 hours, and keeping a regular sleep schedule. Naps are actually one of the most important things that you can do for your health, overall well-being, for your creativity, fitness and even for weight loss.
What I suggest is to watch your patterns and observe your body and what it tries to communicate to you around that time, a.k.a afternoon slump. What you’ll notice is typically there is a certain time in the afternoon, somewhere between 2:30pm- 4:30pm when you’re feeling really tired, you’re not very productive and you start to crave junk food.
So if you start to feel tired around those times, see if you can take a 5 or 10 minute break to just close your eyes and take a little nap. If you can lie down that would be great, but if not, resting your eyes in the car in the parking lot, or on a park bench for just 5 to 10 minutes will really help relax your mind and body before you get up and get going again.
What you can also do during this time is listen to a visualization, visualization done correctly puts your brain in the alpha and the theta state, both of which will allow you to receive the rejuvenating effects of being in this deep relaxation mode.
It’s also great to have a healthy snack at the ready. The types of foods you want to prepare are foods that contain healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, ghee, butter, or chia seeds (read more about different dietary fats, here). These healthy fats combined with a healthy protein, like grass-fed free range animal protein, mixed with some live greens, combined with a nap will work wonders for helping you change your body hormonally so that you’re not stressed out, don’t have junk food cravings and can make healhty food choices the rest of the day.
So why not take a nap?
Studies show that not only will you feel better almost immediately, says Sara Mednick, PhD, a sleep medicine researcher at the University of California at San Diego and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, but a daily nap of between 20 and 90 minutes before 4:00 pm will also increase your mental performance and reduce your chances of gaining weight. What’s more, it won’t affect your nighttime sleep.
According to Dr. Mednick, a nap will:
- Increase your on-the-job alertness by 100%
- Sharpen your thinking so you make more accurate judgments and better decisions
- Ramp up your productivity
- Regenerate skin cells so you look younger
- Increase your sex drive
- Help you lose weight by altering metabolism and shifting chemicals that affect appetite
- Reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems
- Lift your mood by bathing your brain in the neurotransmitter serotonin
- Speed up your ability to perform motor tasks, like typing, operating machinery, even swimming
- Improve your accuracy — in everything. Stanford University researchers and colleagues found that emergency room clinicians who had an average 25-minute nap had fewer performance lapses, and reported more vigor, less fatigue, and less sleepiness than those who didn’t nap.
- Improve the way your body processes carbs, which reduces your risk of diabetes
- Sharpen your senses so you take in what’s important in your environment — and screen out the 24-hour culture chatter that surrounds us
- Put your brain into its creative gear so you can come up with fresh ideas
- Trigger a naturally occurring hormone that blocks the destructive chemicals produced by stress
- Boost your ability to learn something new and, better yet, remember it. A 60-90 minute nap improved the verbal memory of study participants more than caffeine, in a study published in Behavioural Brain Research.
- Zap the need for drugs like caffeine and alcohol to manipulate your mood and energy level
- Relieve migraines
- Improve your nighttime sleep by eliminating that wired feeling and thus shutting off the brain chatter
- Make you feel good all over
You can read more about developing good sleep hygiene habits, here.