While science has long discussed the benefits of the daytime nap, it seems that the ability to doze is actually influenced by our genes.
If you’re barely following this sentence in a half-conscious mid-afternoon stupor, you’re missing out. Yes, the nanna/disco/cat-nap is the latest social construct to be given the rising thumb of scientific approval.
Second only the sex in the perfectly normal bodily function your mum judges you for, the nap is an international mainstay. In the clueless Western world, about 50 percent of us report taking a nap at least once per week, so claims a study in 2018.
However, napping rates are greater in places that treasure the siesta culture, which socially affords one the opportunity to have a mid-afternoon kip in order to recharge for the evening’s revelry. I’m looking at you (in abject envy) Greece, Spain and Brazil. In those such countries, up to 72 percent will nap as often as four times per week.
Other than quickly repairing our moods (and perhaps the longevity of our inter-personal relationships), recent research has discovered that ability to learn a new skill, was considerably greater following a brief afternoon nap. In fact, some non-drowsy know it all types believe that the overall benefits of naps are similar to those experienced after consuming caffeine, but sans the nasty side effects of caffeine dependence.
But, how long should your nap go for? Experts believe that 90 minutes is the optimal length of a nap, as that represents a normal sleep cycle. Anything beyond that, or short of 180 minutes, and you’ll be subject to the world ending grip of drowsy hell when you stir.
However, if we wind the clock forward to 2021, another study has a deeper look, suggesting that our ability to nap during the day depends on our genes. The experts of the Massachusetts General Hospital have identified 123 areas in the human genome at are associated with day-time napping, and three methods that allow us to doze off. Very simply put, those who are unable to nap are literally unable to do so.
“Napping is somewhat controversial…it was important to try to disentangle the biological pathways that contribute to why we nap,” states Hassan Saeed Dashti, PhD, RD, of the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine, co-lead author of the report. Interestingly, Dashti also notes that cultures and countries that once endorsed the nap (such as Spain) are now actively discouraging the habit.
The three methods that allow us to nap are: Sleep propensity (those who need more shut-eye than others), disrupted sleep (whether poor quality sleep pushes us to the couch) and early morning awakening (early risers who supplement their consciousness with a kip).
What does this mean? Well these three factors tell “us that daytime napping is biologically driven and not just an environmental or behavioural choice,” says Dashti. However, these findings are preliminary, as much work needs to be done. As Science Daily noted, “…some of these subtypes were linked to cardiometabolic health concerns, such as large waist circumference and elevated blood pressure, though more research on those associations is needed.”
In the meantime, if you’re feeling dangerous, and want to blend your addictions, the concept of the coffee-nap is a thing. But it’s only for the most alpha of lounge snoozing types.