If you’re feeling a little sleepy, you’re not alone: at present, around two thirds of Americans and nearly half of all Brits aren’t getting enough rest, due to either sleep disorders or stress and anxiety.  If you’re able to carve out just half an hour in your day to embrace the Italian tradition of naps, or riposo (some Italians call it “siesta”), you could find that you feel not only more refreshed and alert, but that you also experience long term health benefits.  From lower blood pressure to a more positive outlook, afternoon naps can can help you live longer and more healthily.

The right way to take a riposo

Scientists at NASA have concluded that the ideal nap time is 26 minutes; any longer and you risk falling into a very deep sleep which can actually make you feel more sluggish during the afternoon, and fall asleep less easily at night time.  In order to ensure that you sleep lightly enough to see the benefits – the NASA study found a 54% increase in alertness – experts recommend that you sleep on a sofa or comfortable armchair, and set an alarm.  In contrast, at night time you should aim to create an atmosphere to encourage deep sleep, as this is when your body does the majority of its healing and rebuilding.

Helping your health

A new study from Greece has found that afternoon napping can lower blood pressure. This can reduce your risk of heart attacks and other diseases.  Naps also help to boost your alertness and motor performance, which might be particularly beneficial if you have a physically demanding job, shift work, long drives, or simply the demands of parenthood.

Boosting your brainpower

Scheduling a short nap during the day can also boost your brain’s productivity, by helping your brain to process the glucose you get from food.  This can give you more mental energy throughout the day. One study found that 30 minute rests helped to prevent a deterioration in the brain’s performance during tasks.  Since a nap is far healthier than sipping caffeine or energy drinks, try to find a quiet place during your lunch hour and close your eyes to produce a better afternoon’s work.

There’s no doubt that the Mediterranean lifestyle of great food, sunshine and napping is the envy of many countries around the world.  For those struggling with sleep, the concept of ‘riposos’ is well worth a try. By keeping your naps short and sweet, you can enjoy longterm health benefits and day to day alertness and positivity. Dormi bene!

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