Nothing wrong with a nap

Ransom Riggs

In our workaday world, sleeping during the day tends to have some negative associations: laziness, unemployment and depression. A 60 Minutes profile from a few months ago featured a chronically depressed woman who slept for hours and hours during the afternoon -- in response to which Leslie Stahl said something like, "sleeping during the day, no one who's not depressed does that."

A new study by a Greek health organization, however, contradicts that. The human body is designed to sleep a lot at night and a little bit during the day, and according to the study, those who do (men especially) have a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease. A catnap helps you relax and relieves stress -- even just a fifteen minute shut-eye session. It's should be no surprise, then, that European countries in which the siesta is still common practice have a comparatively low rate of heart disease deaths.

"Most people stay awake all day rather than taking a nap - but they're fooling themselves. If they're tired, they make mistakes and are more likely to have accidents. They can't think as clearly," says Noel Kingsley, spokesperson for Siesta Awareness. (Now, that's an awareness campaign I can get behind.) "There is a natural dip in energy, about 12 hours after the deepest sleep; we get drowsy and there's a drop in body temperature. We need a short nap to refresh ourselves."

According to the BBC, "before the industrial revolution and fixed working hours, it would have been perfectly normal in northern Europe for people to take an afternoon sleep before a big evening meal. People wanted to stay sharp for the big social occasion of the evening meal, so they had a couple of hours sleep around 4pm. And then, refreshed and hungry, they would wake for their dinner and then go to bed around midnight, getting up again at daylight." Nappers, you are vindicated! Anyone else care to come out of the closet and weigh in?

Also, wondering how are 9-5ers supposed to work a nap into their day? Here's one answer.