The correlation between sleep and health is so compelling I know it would help me if I got more sleep but somehow it eludes me. To make matters worse, my husband's napping is legendary. I've found him snoozing in busy shopping centers and loud airports, snoring away as amused passersby chuckled at his stolen REMs.
I fail to understand, yet envy his ability to grab a couple of winks in the tiniest sliver of time. But I'm not alone; it's estimated that about half of the American public is mildly sleep deprived.
According to sleep researchers, napping is good for your heart and your head. It lowers blood pressure, reducing your risk of stroke and heart attack. It enhances your mood, alertness and memory; even 10 minutes can improve mental performance.
The Harvard School of Public Health published results of a 6-year study of 23,681 apparently healthy men and women, ages 20 to 86. Those who took afternoon naps of 30 minutes or more at least three times per week had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who did not.
Not convinced yet? In 2005, researchers discovered that sleep loss is directly tied to obesity. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, with only four hours of sleep, the body has problems regulating blood sugar. To compensate for low energy, it reduces leptin (a hormone triggering satisfaction after a meal) and increases grehlin (the hunger hormone).
Sleep specialists have numerous recommendations for insomniacs, from TV-free bedrooms to warm milk at night. I think the first step is embracing sleep as a normal and natural mechanism essential to human biology. It is a gift, a miracle that renews and restores the body and soul.