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An Easy Fix for Frustration

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Naps used to be seen as the purview of infants and the elderly. But now that naps have become more acceptable for healthy adults, we’re starting to hear terms like “strategic napping.” This makes it sound more serious, like something important people do at the Pentagon. In fact, let’s hope they’re doing it at the Pentagon, because a recent study shows that naps can reduce impulsive behavior and frustration.

The newly published study, conducted by the University of Michigan, focused on how a nap affected the emotional control of adults. Study participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 50, were asked to do computer tasks, and to answer a questionnaire about their mood. Then half of the participants took a 60-minute nap, while the other half watched a 60-minute nature video, before they all returned to redo the computer tasks and questionnaires. Those who had napped were more patient; they spent more time trying to solve a difficult task. The non-nappers were more easily frustrated. The napper group also reported that they felt less impulsive after their nap.

The results indicate that fatigue hinders people from controlling their negative emotions. “Our results suggest that napping may be a beneficial intervention for individuals who may be required to remain awake for long periods of time by enhancing the ability to persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks,” wrote the study’s lead author, Jennifer Goldschmied, a doctoral student in the UM Department of Psychology.

Napping is not only effective; it’s also cost-efficient, say the researchers. Employers who provide ways for the their teams to nap will find their employees are more productive and better equipped to solve problems.

Napping tips:

  • Short naps, about 20 minutes long, are best for boosting energy.
  • Longer naps, up to 90 minutes, improve problem solving skills and the ability to learn new things.
  • For a double hit of energy, drink a cup of coffee or tea, and then take a 20-minute nap. You’ll wake up just as the caffeine takes effect.
  • Nap early in the afternoon, ideally around 2 to 3 p.m.
  • Insomniacs should limit themselves to short naps, or no naps at all.

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!

About the Author

Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle.

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