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from nap to physical activity – breaking latest news

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from nap to physical activity – breaking latest news

by Cristina Marrone

Afternoon naps are refreshing, as long as they do not exceed 30 minutes so as not to enter deep sleep. After a sleepless night there are a number of activities to avoid

Good sleep, together with proper nutrition and physical exercise, is one of the foundations of good health. Yet it happens to everyone to spend one or more sleepless nights or to sleep fewer hours than they should. It happens that you stay up late at night and sleep just 5-6 hours compared to the recommended eight, or you wake up in the middle of the night with the anxiety of a deadline at work or a family problem without being able to sleep.

The consequences of insufficient night’s rest

A bad night’s sleep can really ruin the next day. Research shows that people who sleep less than they need have slower response times, difficulties with decision-making and attention, and poorer memory. They also more often experience depressionanxiety and social isolation. These effects are generally observed in studies in which participants are forced to stay awake for 24 hours, but the same effects have also been observed in those who lose even just a couple of hours of sleep for two nights in a row.

What happens to the brain when you sleep little

In the brain These changes manifest as less activity in the prefrontal cortex, responsible for planning, decision making and other executive functions. At the same time, greater activity is observed in the amygdala, that area of ​​the brain involved in feelings of fear and anxiety. Sleep deprivation can also activate the sympathetic nervous system, which presides over the fight-and-flight adaptation system, preparing the body to face danger, thus making us feel stressed and nervous.

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The benefits of napping

To mitigate these effects, experts recommend taking a nap. Not only can it help you feel less sleepy, but it can actually improve performance in many of those cognitive processes that are impaired by lack of sleep. A quick nap at lunchtime can give you the right energy to recover the benefits lost due to a sleepless night. Sleeping badly can happen every now and then, but afternoon naps can never replace a night of good sleep in terms of health benefits – underlines Carlotta Mutti, neurologist at the Sleep Medicine Center of Parma hospital -. in fact it is now known that lack of sleep is associated with greater obesity, hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. It is not only the duration of sleep that is important, but also the quality of sleep which is determined by how much time is spent in the different phases.

Who are naps useful for?

The Americans call it a power nap, that is, a short energizing nap. Napping can really be useful for improving reaction times, clarity and memory when you have to work or study. Naps are especially helpful for those who don’t always work day shifts such as airline pilots, drivers, doctors and nurses, or anyone who works shifts. Even elderly people and students can benefit from an afternoon nap for different reasons – explains the neurologist -. While older people often suffer from disturbed sleep at night, younger people often have to get up very early in the morning to get to school. Scientific literature tells us that on average 43 to 54% of university students need a power nap at least once a week.

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Because it should not exceed 30 minutes

The ideal power nap for stocking up on energy has an ideal duration of 10-20 minutes: it will make us feel completely regenerated when we wake up. In this period of time you are in the light sleep phase and there is no risk of waking up groggy. After 30 minutes most people enter deep sleep, therefore waking up in this phase will not give a real feeling of rest.

While these strategies can help, they won’t completely offset the effects of a bad night’s sleep. Even if you add the few hours of sleep per night with an afternoon nap, reaching a total of six or more hours of rest, the health benefits do not add up in the same way because deep rest and REM sleep are still missing, which are generally experienced at night or with naps lasting more than 90 minutes, specifies Mutti

Other strategies: caffeine, sport and natural light

Drinking caffeine drinks is another way to improve alertness and cognition. The important thing is not to overdo it: too much caffeine can make you feel anxious and nervous, increasing your heart rate, which is already a consequence of lack of sleep. Regular exercise also counteracts the long-term health consequences of sleep loss and improves performance even immediately after a sleepless night, as suggested by a small study of 2022. In the research, a group of university students who exercised after a night of total sleep deprivation obtained better results in tests of cognitive control (the processes necessary to coordinate thoughts and actions based on the purpose) compared to those who had not exercised . A recent small job concluded that carrying out a minimum of 20 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (without exceeding two hours) after a sleepless night improves cognitive performance. Exposure to bright, natural light is another way to increase alertness. To get both the benefits of light and the benefits of exercise, experts suggest taking a walk at midday.

What not to do

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After a sleepless night, risky behaviors that could endanger themselves and others should be avoided. First of all, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel because reaction times are slowed down. At work you should give yourself more time to complete planned activities because the brain works a little slowly. It is better to carry out the more difficult tasks when you feel a little better: there is no point in insisting when you feel tired and irritable and risk making bad decisions.

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December 4, 2023 (modified December 4, 2023 | 3:21 pm)

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