Saturday, January 15, 2011

Toddlers, The Cat and My Dad

by Kris Pitcher

I would love one of these!
Toddlers resist it, the cat glorifies it and my dad just plain gets the practicality of the daily nap. In fact taking cues from the cat, napping happens throughout the day in various places in the house depending on where the sun is. If the sun does not show itself napping places still rotate based on time of day. Interesting. Upon first glance one might think, "lazy cat". But she has a schedule.

Now, toddlers I don't know much about and I figure they just want to do the opposite of what you're trying to get them to do.  My dad on the other hand is just plain smart. He knows a daily nap is good for his health. Either that, or he's hibernating.

I'm all for napping! Naps are part of the weekend schedule, and I'm not admitting to napping at work...but I do have a "yoga" mat in my office and a fleece blanket in my drawer. Those things are for meditating though. describes the five stages of sleep: stage 1 - we drift in and out and can be awoken easily, we have sudden muscle contractions with feelings of falling; stage 2 - eye movement stops and brain waves slow with only an occasional burst of activity; stage 3 - extremely slow brain waves called delta waves are interspersed with smaller faster waves; stage 4 - the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively; stage 5 - REM (rapid eye movement) breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow, eyes jerk rapidly and limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed, brain waves increase to levels when awake, heart rate and blood pressure increase, we dream, and most experience 3-5 intervals of REM sleep per night. Stages 3 & 4 are considered "deep sleep". Fascinating.

I experience stage 1 on the couch all the time. My husband asks, "Are you asleep?" And I don't even lie, I tell him yes. I used to lie and say no. Why do we do that?

Naps are great for boosting energy and 15-20 minutes will do the trick. Research shows napping for longer than 20 minutes helps boost creativity. Napping in the 20 minute range is stage 2 sleep and is good for restoring alertness and improving motor skills. Hmm, I should be able to play the piano by now.

Napping for 30-60 minutes, or slow-wave sleep is good for improving decision making skills. Long naps 60-90 minutes put you in REM sleep and play a key role in making new connections in the brain and help with problem solving. Naps reduce our risk for heart disease, lower our stress levels and increase our alertness. Sign me up!

Here are a few tips for Successful Napping:

  • Be Regular - regular naps reduce stress and reduce risk for heart disease
  • Prime Time - nap between 1:00-3:00 pm for the greatest benefit without interrupting night time sleep
  • Be Quick - set the alarm for 30 minutes to avoid feeling groggy
  • Go Dark - nap in a dark room or wear an eye mask to fall asleep faster
  • Stay Warm - stash a blanket nearby to cover up, your body temperature decreases when you snooze
Now cozy up and get your cat nap in. Your brain and heart will thank you. You'll wake feeling refreshed and creative to boot! Now I'm feeling a bit sleepy...

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