Tensing your muscles can be key to a good afternoon nap by helping you drift into deeper sleep, research suggests
- Tensing and relaxing large muscle groups creates deeper sleep, researchers say
- Squeezing and releasing the muscles is more effective than relaxing music
- Participants came out of their nap more well rested and had better sleep pattern
Looking forward to an afternoon nap this Easter Monday? Try squeezing your muscles first to increase the benefits of your snooze.
People who intentionally tensed and then relaxed their large muscle groups before they drifted off had 125 per cent more deep sleep and an improved sleep pattern in their nap compared with those who had instead listened to relaxing music, researchers found.
The team, from the University of California, Irvine and Princeton University in the US, studied 50 people as they lay down for a 1pm nap.
People who intentionally tensed and then relaxed their large muscle groups before they drifted off had 125 per cent more deep sleep. File image
Half followed a ten-minute recording of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). The other half listened to ten minutes of Mozart music.
Researchers found the two groups showed different sleeping brain rhythm patterns. Lead author Dr Katharine Simon said: ‘We found that those who engaged in PMR prior to sleep showed greater right-sided sleeping brain rhythm activity from the start – which we expect to see in more well-rested individuals.’
The findings were published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
Dr Simon explained: ‘Brain waves can be a proxy for how much restorative sleep your brain needs.
‘So in essence, PMR before the nap supported some of the restorative needs that sleep typically takes care of.
‘This doesn’t mean one doesn’t need sleep, but instead that PMR can bias the nap to be filled with more deep sleep.
‘Thus PMR may provide pre-sleep restoration benefits typically occurring during sleep and possibly let sleep focus its support on other functions such as memory formation or emotional health.’
The team, from the University of California, Irvine and Princeton University in the US, studied 50 people as they lay down for a 1pm nap. File image
Dr Simon said PMR is something people can easily try at home before their nap.
‘This is why we are so excited by this result,’ she said.
‘There are numerous scripts that are free online, one can watch videos, or listen to audio versions.
‘All will walk you through the steps of tensing specific muscles in your body i.e. making fists and squeezing them tightly for 10 seconds and then relaxing them.
‘This causes the muscle to become more relaxed than prior to the initial tensing.
‘We hope that our results demonstrate that individuals can easily engage in pre-sleep muscle relaxation which will bias their nap to be filled with deep sleep, benefitting their overall health and cognition.’