Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronal Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush all regularly took time from their busy schedules to enjoy an afternoon nap. Even your dog takes naps, your kids take naps, and chances are your 80-year-old grandma takes naps. In fact, 85% of mammals take time for a relaxing afternoon nap.
But most working age Americans don’t. A 2009 study found that only one third of American adults take naps on a regular basis—probably because our fast paced work schedules just don’t allow time for this childhood pleasure. And, of course, there are stigmas associated with napping, such as laziness, lack of ambition and low standards.
But, would we actually be more productive, smarter, healthier and easier to get along with if we all took naps? Let’s consider this from an ancestral/biological perspective. Our ancestors needed continued vigilance at night to protect themselves from predators or other dangers, making it difficult to sleep uninterrupted for 7 hours. They also lived closely in small groups so they constantly dealt with the needs of infants and young children throughout the night. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm were likely to wake up the entire clan when they couldn’t sleep through the night. Also, the relaxed pace of our ancestors lent itself to afternoons of dozing into never-never land.
People in other cultures around the world still enjoy an afternoon nap as part of their normal workday. Siestas are common in Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Spain. These short afternoon naps are also common in Italy, Greece, the Philippines and Nigeria. In China, napping is done almost religiously after lunch. However, it seems our fast-paced American lifestyle just doesn’t lend itself to napping.
It turns out that napping may provide benefits that could be worth the time.
- Data from the National Sleep Foundation suggests, “a well-timed afternoon nap may be the best way to combat sleepiness.”
- Gregory Blenky, MD, Research Professor and Director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center, says a nap can help make up for insufficient sleep, and that “it’s even possible that divided sleep is more recuperative than sleep taken in a single block.”
- Mark Rosekind’s studies with NASA pilots found that napping pilots had a 34% increase in performance and 54% boost in alertness that lasted 2 to 3 hours.
- The Center for Applied Cognitive Studies says that during a 10 to 20 minute afternoon nap, your brain cells reset their sodium potassium ratios, which are thrown out of balance during long periods of intense brain arousal. This imbalance is the main cause of what is known as “mental fatigue.” A brief nap can restore the ratio to normal, resulting in mental refreshment.
- Studies in Greece indicate that people who nap have a lower heart attack risk.
A 10 to 20 minute nap can help improve mood, alertness, performance, and memory. The Center for Applied Cognitive Studies says, “the length of sleep is not what causes us to be refreshed upon waking.” The key factor is the number of complete sleep cycles we enjoy. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and contains 5 distinct phases, which exhibit different wave patterns. Leading researcher Dr. Claudio Stampi found that naps taken in the afternoon (a common low energy period for our circadian rhythms) were comparatively higher in the most restorative slow wave sleep.
So it looks like the ancestral/biological evidence indicates that an afternoon nap may be worth the time. So, here are a few tips to help you get the most from your naptime.
- Plan to nap for 10 to 20 minutes. Short naps are best. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy.
- Set an alarm. It’s easier to relax when you have a safety valve to keep you from oversleeping.
- Take naps in the afternoon around 2 or 3. This is the time of day most people experience a lower level of alertness, and anything later could interfere with nighttime sleep.
- Elevate your feet to allow blood to flow more easily from your legs to the rest of your body.
- Create a peaceful environment by turning out the lights, closing the door and silencing electronic devices.
If you’re still wondering whether or not you should doze off in the afternoon, here’s a little demographic information. The 2009 study found that 21% of people making $75,000 to $99,000 a year take regular naps. Among people making more than $100,000, 33% take naps.
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Bob Swayze had become the heaviest he'd ever been and was experiencing joint pain. He decided the weight was taking a toll on his body, and he feared how he'd feel at 70 based on how bad he felt at 60. Intrigued by one workout in just 20 Minutes a Week, he decided to try Exercise Inc.
After describing his goals and what he wanted to accomplish with his trainer, Kyle, during his initial consultation, Kyle discussed how the program at Exercise Inc could help Bob through exercise and a change in diet.
Find out how far Bob has come in 18 months with Exercise Inc, and how close he is to accomplishing the goals he initially set for himself. With hard work, he's determined to reach his goals, and maybe even exceed them!
Ready to see what 20 Minutes A Week can do for you?
Give us a call today at 317-750-2219.
For the last 30 years, health professionals have advised us to ban saturated fat from our diets because of its precarious relationship with cholesterol and heart disease. Even the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines For Americans recommends keeping saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of our daily calories. Well-meaning doctors and nutritionists have asked their patients to stop eating red meat, cut out butter, and switch from whole to skim milk.
Fats are simply long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen bound to the carbons. They contain a lot of energy because of all those hydrogen atoms. Saturated fats have hydrogen attached to every possible binding sight on their carbon chain, making them solid at room temperature due to their tightly packed straight chains. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as beef, pork, chicken (dark meat and skin) and butter.
Your body actually needs fat from food. It's a major source of energy. The vilification of fat began in 1977 when the United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published the first Dietary Goals for The United States. It stated that Americans could improve their health and reduce their risk of heart disease by eating less fat, especially saturated fat. This “fat hypothesis” was based on a handful of ambiguous studies and a good deal of speculation. It was just a guess constructed by a senate committee.
By 1981 the Dietary Goals began to reshape the nutritional philosophy and nutritional habits of most Americans. Health writers, dieticians, and medical professionals began preaching that reducing the fat in our diets would help us reduce our waistlines. They also said reducing saturated fat would help prevent heart disease.
Goodbye steaks, and so long butter.
But something about the vilification of fat, especially saturated fat just doesn’t make sense. For thousands of generations, our ancestors were strong, healthy and had very little heart disease. They ate lots of animals without “trimming the fat.” In fact, it’s highly likely that our “caveman” ancestors ate the fat first because it tasted best.
In 2010 the Harvard School of public health performed a meta analysis of all the studies completed on the association between saturated fats and heart disease. Their study found that when carbs were used to replace saturated fats, they increased the risk for heart disease by increasing blood triglycerides and lowering HDL cholesterol levels. The meta analysis also found that there was no overall effect of saturated fat or red meat on either heart disease or diabetes. The study did, however, find that processed meats like hot dogs and lunchmeat resulted in a 42% greater risk for heart disease and a 19% greater risk for diabetes.
The traditional view is that saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol levels, which increases our risk of heart disease. The conclusion that saturated fats increase total blood cholesterol levels is indisputable. However, total blood cholesterol levels are a crude marker for heart disease. They don’t reflect the dynamics of cholesterol entering and leaving the blood. Some cholesterol is taken out of our bodies by HDL (good) particles, while other cholesterol is deposited in our arteries by LDL (bad) particles. Those bad particles form the plaque, which clogs our arteries. Because total cholesterol represents the sum of both good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, by itself it is a poor measure of heart disease risk. The ratio of total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol is a much better predictor of heart disease. Lower values for total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol reduce our risk for heart disease, while higher values increase it. The 2010 Harvard meta analysis found saturated fat actually lowered the total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio.
So the advice our government has been giving us to limit or avoid saturated fat doesn’t really pass the test of science or the instincts of our ancestors. So why do we still have increasing incidence of heart disease? The 2010 meta-analysis found that when carbs were used to replace saturated fats, carbs increased the risk of heart disease by increasing triglycerides and lowering HDL cholesterol levels.
So is it okay to eat saturated fat? Absolutely, as long as it exists in “real” unprocessed foods like meat, butter, whole milk or eggs. Be careful with processed meats, which are usually chock-full of the preservatives nitrites and nitrates that are converted to potent cancer-causing nitrosamines in our guts. Another reason to avoid processed unnatural meats is they are typically laced full of salt, high fructose corn syrup, wheat, grains, and other additives that have multiple adverse health effects.
One final consideration to always keep in mind when eating meat: How was the animal raised? Try to go for grass-fed, pastured animals raised without antibiotics or steroids. If you have to eat conventional meat, trim the fat, because that’s where the steroids are stored.
So let’s all enjoy our steak, bacon and butter!
Less (but more intense) workouts = Better Health. That was the title of the forwarded email I received a couple weeks ago from a good friend. The email had been sent to her from a public relations consultant at IU Health, in regards to a new research finding: weekend warriors who cram 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity into one or two days a week lower their risk of mortality just as much as people who go to the gym five days a week. Of course, my friend thought of Exercise Inc when she read the email.
The study was a pooled analysis of 64,000 adults. The researchers looked at data on middle-aged adults who responded to a government-sponsored household survey conducted from 1994 to 2012. The survey included questions about health history and fitness habits. The researchers then cross-referenced this information with health department death records.
They found the risk of death from all causes was about 30 percent lower for weekend warriors, compared with adults who maintained a sedentary lifestyle. They also found that those who reported exercising once or twice a week had a 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and an 18 percent lower risk for cancer-related death. The mortality rates of those who exercised once or twice a week were roughly the same as those who claimed to exercise more than two days a week.
This study didn’t classify the type of exercise, so the participants could have been doing anything—mountain biking, skiing, running, or lifting weights. The important fact about the study is that folks who exercised once or twice a week had the same reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer as people who exercised 3 to 7 times a week.
This is great news for us at Exercise Inc! Our recommended exercise schedule is a 20-minute workout once a week and 20 to 30 minutes of walking 5 days a week. We know many of our clients don’t get their 5 days of walking in, but that has not prevented them from making changes in their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
The more we learn about exercise, the more we understand that intensity is the key. And at Exercise Inc, we make sure the intensity is where it needs to be for our clients to change many of their medical biomarkers. The great thing about our program is it’s safe enough for your grandmother, but we can make it intense enough to bring anyone to their knees. (Yes, we’ve done it.)
So as the title suggested, less can be more, especially when the less is 20 minutes of high intensity strength training.