Want to Be Smarter and Thinner? Take a Nap

We tend to associate napping with babies, old people and slackers, but here's a news flash: Napping actually has a lot health benefits, including boosting your productivity, enhancing your libido and aiding in weight loss!

Dimitri Vervitsiotis | Getty Images

Today is actually “National Napping Day,”a day to bring awareness to the benefits of napping. The creator, William Anthony, a professor at Boston University, chose the Monday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in because it’s a day that most people are usually sluggish.

“Americans are more ‘nap-ready’ than usual after losing an hour of sleep to daylight savings time,” Anthony said in a press release.

“Our goal is to encourage folks to take a nap wherever they may be, at home, at the workplace, or on vacation, and to make it a regular part of their healthy lifestyle,” said Anthony. “It is a day when nappers all over the country need to lie down and be counted.”

A study by Tempur-Pedic found that more than half of Americans admit to falling asleep in inappropriate places, including bathroom stalls, graveyards, elevators and court.

In the book,“Take a Nap! Change Your Life,” author Sara C. Mednick says a sleep-deprived population is actually a dangerous population, noting the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Union Carbide chemical explosion in India and nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl have all been in some way linked to employees suffering from a lack of sleep.

“No single organ is affected by a lack of sleep more than the brain,” Mednick writes. “In order to function, it must metabolize the glucose that it receives via the circulation of blood. Neither process is possible without sleep.”

Several studies have found that decreased levels of nocturnal sleep have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and colon cancer, and they mess with the hormone that controls your appetite, Mednick notes. If your body isn’t producing that hormone, then it doesn’t always know how to tell you when you’re full – —and you keep eating.

In the chapter titled, “The Nap Manifesto,” she notes the positive side effects of napping such as increasing alertness, accuracy and decision making. It’s also helpful for a company’s bottom line: Fatigue-related accidents cost US industries over $150 million a year, she writes. It also helps keep you looking young – It improves skin and tissue regeneration. It also can help you lose weight and reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke.

And — this requires its own paragraph — it can improve your sex life. “Sleep deprivation dampens sex drive and sexual function,” she writes. “Napping reverses those effects.”

So let’s all make a pact here and now to stop napping at our desks and in graveyards and start making naps at appropriate times and places a regular part of our day.

Ready! Set! Nap! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.