For any employee who has slept too little the night before, there is one tantalizing idea that gives us hope as the bags under our eyes sag and our attention lags: What if we… just took a nap? Too many of us are sleep-deprived zombies because we failed to get the eight hours of sleep science says we need, or else, we act like we are legally drunk. One proven way to avoid acting like a drunk zombie: naps.
We ultimately cannot game sleep, but research has found that we can play its game by incorporating short, timed naps at key hours of the day. But what time is best? The consensus among sleep experts and sleep studies find that afternoon hours work best.
Here are three reasons why afternoon naps are the superior form of siesta.
1) Our bodies are engineered for afternoon naps
Sleep experts are not sure exactly sure of the biology behind why our bodies naturally want to nap in the afternoon, but they theorize that it comes down to evolution. Because our human ancestors grew up in tropical, sweaty climates, afternoon napping was our body’s way to escape the heat and work in cooler times of the day.
2) They boost brain power
Having trouble remembering what you just did this morning? Try an afternoon nap. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that a one-hour nap after lunch improved 3,000 elderly seniors’ ability to recall tasks better and solve more math problems. At best, the participants’ brains would perform as if they were five years younger.
A University of California study found that adults who took afternoon naps not only performed better than people who took no naps, but that nappers were able to complete challenging tasks better than they had in earlier in the day.
3) Powerful people nap on the job
If the science of sleep doesn’t sway you, trust in the powerful people who take napping very seriously. Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Salvador Dali, and Johannes Brahms are reportedly among the famous nappers in history.
U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill even credited his success in World War II to his afternoon snoozing habit. In his memoir, Churchill called his afternoon naps the “refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”