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How nap time can improve your mental health

POSTED: July 17, 2015 11:29 a.m.
Kelsey Dallas/

A new nap study found a 60-minute siesta increases frustration tolerance and reduces impulsivity.

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Searching for a reason to take a midday snooze? Look no further than a new study reporting naps increase a person's tolerance of frustration.

A team of University of Michigan researchers found that an hour of sleep boosted participants' willingness to stick with a difficult task, in this case, copying geometric designs from computer screen onto a piece of paper without lifting their pencil.

"Before the nap (or the hourlong nature documentary shown to the comparison group), the participants tried drawing the unsolvable designs for about a minute, on average, before giving up," New York Magazine reported. "When the people who watched the nature documentary tried again, they gave up after about 45 seconds โ€” the nappers, however, kept at it for twice as long as the no-nappers, for about 90 seconds."

Nappers also told researchers they felt less impulsive after a siesta, leading the team to conclude that naps could be an "effective countermeasure" to lapses in emotional control caused by, well, being awake.

"These results are valuable and have put us on the route to understanding how we can utilize naps. Now people are starting to understand how powerful short bursts of sleep can be," lead author Jennifer Goldschmied told The New York Times.

The findings echo earlier research showing naps improve mood, alertness and overall performance, highlighted by the National Sleep Foundation in its fact sheet on napping.

According to the organization, the 60-minute period of shut-eye studied by the researchers was actually overly luxurious. To best increase alertness, your naps should clock in at 20-30 minutes.

Additionally, people hoping to benefit from a napping habit should consider the timing of their afternoon snooze, as a 2013 Wall Street Journal article on the art of napping noted.

"Experts say the ideal time to nap is generally between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.," the Journal reported. "Napping later in the day could interfere with nighttime sleep."

And even if the timing is right, the practice still might not work for everyone. Naps leave some sleepers disoriented and uncomfortable, the National Sleep Foundation reported. Ultimately, people should focus on getting a full night of sleep.
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