However, our modern environment has forced us into accepting that we are awake throughout the day, and sleep at night. Yet, our genetic templates formed during our hunter gatherer times have programmed our sleep cycle to have two phases, one during the night and a shorter one after lunch. The chemicals released into our blood stream in the evening to trigger sleepiness also turn up early afternoon. Young children and elderly persons nap and napping is a very important aspect of many cultures. The developed world appears to be becoming more and more sleep deprived.
While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short day-time nap of 10-20 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance. A recent study on 24 healthy adults carried out at Flinders University in Adelaide examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and with no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A five minute nap showed no benefit and a nap lasting 30 minutes or longer was more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, a period of grogginess that can follow sleep.
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