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Modern Alchemy’s Secrets to Longevity: The Lost Art of the Nap

By Carlyn Montes De Oca
Modern Alchemy

My friend, Liza Pascal, an acupuncturist in Boulder, Colorado, used to work with Dr.Yeshi Dhonden, the personal physician to the Dalai Lama. I’m certain that Dr. Dhonden has many secrets of longevity to share with mankind, but one that he practices first hand and daily is to take a nap every afternoon at 1pm. Rain or shine, whether it’s The Dalai Lama or the common man at his door, Dr. Dhonden understands the importance of this easy, effective and free lifestyle habit to boost his overall health and longevity.

A Nap is a Nap is a Nap….Not Exactly

When I was little, my mother used to make me nap every day for at least an hour. Later, I had the amazing opportunity to study in Madrid, Spain for a year where the entire country would take a nap every day for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

In my private practice, in Marin County, so many of the patients I work with struggle with sleep issues in particular as they age. Acupuncture is terrific for insomnia and sleep related issues, so much so that I am considering extending those visits to an hour and a half because it pains me too much to wake people so soundly asleep after an hours visit.

If you have a demanding job, are working long hours or on the night shift, if you are finding that you are drinking several cups of coffee or sodas to keep you going through the day, adding extra pounds because you rely on too many carbohydrates for quick fuel, or just not feeling as healthy as you would like, then you might want to start practicing the art of napping right now.

What is the Perfect Nap for You?

Not all naps are created equal and some are better for different circumstances than others. Below is a short list that you might find useful.

Nap 1: 5 minutes or less. Effective for sleepiness.

Nap 2: 5 – 20 minutes. Increases alertness and improves motor performance and stamina. Scientists have proven that taking a 20-minute nap approximately eight hours after waking will do more for your stamina than sleeping another 20 minutes in the morning

Nap 3: 20 minutes. Includes the benefits of the above naps plus improves muscle memory and long-term memory.

Nap 4: 50 to 90 minutes. Good for improving perceptual processing and repairing bones and muscle. You may want to lay off of this type of nap if you are having sleep issues at night because you will probably go into a deeper sleep and it may interfere with your night’s rest.

Nap 5: The preventative nap. If you know you are going to be sleep deprived, try getting a nap in advance.

The Benefits of Napping

Napping in general benefits heart functioning, hormonal maintenance, and cell repair, says Dr. Sara Mednick who is at the forefront of napping research. A power nap, says Mednick, maximizes these benefits by getting the sleeper into and out of rejuvenating sleep as fast as possible.

If you want to reduce stress levels, increase your productivity, memory and cognition, boost your creativity and maximize your overall health, then give napping a try. You don’t need a bed to nap. If you are at work, try closing your office door and putting a do not disturb sign on your door. Or get more of a bang for your buck. Go out into nature, find a nice spot on the grass, and enjoy a quick nap in the sun as you absorb that well needed Vitamin D, which studies show us most Americans are lacking in.

And if you want the perfect icing on the cake, I’d suggest my own special form of napping……

…..the cat nap.


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