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If you can, recharge with a midday nap

By Ina Paiva Cordle

Miami Herald

Jim Angleton’s work day begins before dawn, so when his eyes get droopy by mid-afternoon, he just leans back at his desk and grabs a snooze. ¶ “If I feel tired, my body is trying to tell me something, so I will excuse myself, shut the door, sometimes put headphones on and listen to music, and just put my head back and disconnect,” said Angleton, 56, who owns a Miami Lakes, Fla., financial services company. ¶ Are you yawning yet?

“You get refreshed, you get re-energized and you get de-stressed,” Angleton said. “I highly recommend it if you can get away with it. It’s got to be good for the soul.”

Without a doubt, everyone needs to sleep. Newborns require as much as 18 hours a day; adults, as a general rule, seven to nine hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

“Sleep is essential for your overall well-being, quality of life, for your mood, for your growth, and also for the prevention of diseases, because the lack of sleep can trigger inflammatory response in your body and can make you more susceptible to infection,” said Dr. Alexandre Abreu, co-director of the UHealth Sleep Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Naps can help, as long as they do not interfere with your nighttime sleep – creating a vicious cycle, he said.

In fact, one-third of adults take regular naps, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center. More men, 38 percent, reported catching a few ZZZs, than women, 31 percent.

The habit may start at an early age: preschoolers are accustomed to grabbing their blankets and heading to slumberland. It’s also a cultural phenomenon. In many European and Latin American cultures, a siesta after lunch is still an important part of the daily work schedule.

While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes can help improve mood, alertness and performance, according to the sleep foundation.

Depending on your job, it may even be critical.

A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness by 100 percent.

And another study, printed last October in Academic Medicine, found that among first-year internal medicine residents, a short, midday nap improved alertness and cognitive functioning.

Yet, by and large, U.S. employers frown upon workers who try to sneak in some shuteye.