Boredom and Napping
Have you ever had to fight to keep your eyes open during a meeting or battled the head-nods while listening to a presentation? You probably attributed your desire to doze to the boring nature of the activity. But consider this: Children -- who tend to get the amount of sleep their bodies need -- don't get sleepy when faced with a boring situation; they get restless.
So if sitting through a "sleeper of a speech" has you fighting to stay awake, consider it a hint from your body that you are not getting the sleep you need. This is especially vital when you are driving long distances. If you feel you have to turn up the radio or open a window just to stay awake during a "boring" drive, you are most likely too tired to be driving. The solution is not distraction but sleep.
Some people swear by naps, others find that napping during the day disrupts their sleep at night. Naps can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on how we use them. The urge to nap is greatest about eight hours after we awaken from a night's sleep. This is when our body temperature begins the first of two daily dips (the other, more dramatic dip occurs at night).
A short nap in the early to middle afternoon can bring a renewed sense of energy and alertness. A nap in the late afternoon or early evening, on the other hand, can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it difficult to fall asleep when you retire for the night.
To benefit most from a nap, take it no later than mid-afternoon and keep it under 30 minutes. If you nap for a longer period, your body lapses into a deeper phase of sleep, which can leave you feeling groggy when you awaken. If you are severely sleep deprived and can't go on without a nap, it is better to sleep for a longer time to allow yourself to go through one complete sleep cycle. An average sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes in most people.
If you find you need a nap every day, take it at the same time so your body can develop a rhythm that incorporates the nap. If you try to take a nap but are unable to sleep, simply resting with your eyes closed may help restore some alertness and energy.
It's also possible to use naps to temper the negative effects of an anticipated sleep deficit. For instance, if you know you are going to be up late because of special plans, take a prolonged nap of two to three hours earlier in the day. This has been shown to reduce fatigue at the normal bedtime and improve alertness, although it may throw off your normal sleep rhythm temporarily.
Your eating habits may also affect your sleep cycle. Check out how a healthy eating pattern can lull you into a blissful slumber on the next page.