Wake me in 20

Not just for kindergarteners anymore. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Last week—no wait, the week before—we did a Friday comment thread asking people about how much sleep they get each night. It was great to see so many responses.

Obviously, this was not a scientific survey, but most of those who replied were members of a pretty well-rested group.

By my count, 19 people gave a range, and 11 of them were in the fairly classic goal area of 7.5 to 8.5 hours per night. (I had to smoosh the data a bit, like if someone said they slept between 7 and 8 hours a night, I just split the difference and called it 7.5 on average.)

Of course, there were some outliers: a couple of people averaging just 4 or 5 hours, and one poor soul who, due to a medical condition, finds himself or herself sleeping between 14 and 20 hours a day.

All in all, though: Good for you.

Personally, I've never understood why some people are so boastful about how little sleep they get. Sleep is a biological need, but you don't hear many CEOs bragging about how rarely they exhale or how seldom they go to the bathroom.

Now, I’m still working on my daily sleep schedule, so in the meantime, let’s take a minute to praise poor man’s version of a good night’s sleep: the daily nap.

Years ago, when I was practicing law, I had a colleague who was known for keeping a pillow and blanket in his office and hiding under his desk in the afternoons. He put up with some good-natured ribbing from the rest of us—things like whether he wanted a snack and some finger paints to make his experience complete.

But I think he had the right idea (honestly, I was just jealous back then). So let’s put to bed that idea of naps being just for kindergarteners.

Studies abound on this, like a NASA project that concluded that pilots who nap for about 26 minutes (I assume the copilots were flying during this time) showed 54 percent more alertness and 34 percent better job performance than those who didn’t nap.

Even better, in a big study out of Harvard that involved 23,000 adults in Greece from 1994 to 1999, which researchers determined that people who took frequent naps were 34 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who did not.

The more naps, the better in this study: those who napped three times a week for at least 30 minutes reduced their risk of death by an additional 3 percent over the average (in other words, 37 percent less likely to die).

Moreover: for “working men” (sorry; their wording, not mine), the difference was even starker: a 64 percent lower risk of death from heart disease correlated with frequent napping.

This is the point at which we run into our old friends, causation, and correlation.

Sure, it could be simply that people who take naps during the afternoon are also likely to sleep more at night (hey, it works for babies), or more likely to eat healthy, or less likely to allow stress to get to them, or any one of dozens of other possibilities.

But I figure, why take the chance?

Do me a favor if you would: wake me up in 20 minutes.

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7 other things worth your time


Thanks for reading, as always. Photo: Pixabay. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.