Grand Siesta: the Power of Naps

One of my clients (who often falls asleep while getting a therapeutic massage on my table) was telling me today about his “nap guilt”. He explained, after he awoke, how in his regular life he feels guilty about taking naps. I assured him that this is a common feeling among most productive people in our society. I also explained that it’s a terrible myth.

There are many studies and articles about how this lie has been perpetuated in our world. But the truth is that resting can actually make you more effective and ultimately more productive. I found this interesting article in the New York Times talking about how we don’t have infinite energetic resources and as a result actually thrive when we are getting more rest.

After doing healing bodywork in Berkley for many years, I am quite familiar with how important rest is. Naps can be a valuable restorative tool. But there is something about them that goes against the American ethos of having to be as productive and time efficient as we possibly can every second of the day. In Oakland, where I currently live, I sometimes fall prey to this misconception when I am blissfully resting in the middle of the afternoon. In Mexico, where I grew up, everyone disappeared every day after lunch for a little while. The world quieted down, businesses closed and bodies had the chance to rest and replenish. Yes, the siesta is real and it doesn’t only feel good and give you a little break from the hectic pace that life can bring physiologically, but it is also just a fabulous idea! Napping gives your mind a chance to rest and your body time to heal.

Quick Nap Facts

1. When you nap your brain releases serotonin, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter which also regulates many other functions.
2. When you wake you are more alert, energized and research says it also improves memory and creativity.
3. The stress hormone cortisol decreases during sleep, yes- even brief sleep! This is very beneficial to the immune system, sexual function, muscle repair and weight management.

Many of my clients fall in and out of sleep when getting massages. Most don’t like falling asleep and ‘missing out on the massage’ but I just tell them to trust that the body does what it needs and that it still knows it got a massage and reaped all the benefits of it. When the body is in a state of deep relaxation, induced by massage or napping, great potential for healing and restoration can be realized.