Michael Terman received his doctoral degree in physiological psychology from Brown University. After years of basic science studies in circadian rhythms and light, he moved to Columbia, where he established a novel outpatient clinic, the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms. In 1994 he founded the nonprofit Center for Environmental Therapeutics, which he heads, and which offers chronotherapy guidance to consumers, patients, and doctors. In 2013, he created the Comprehensive Chronotherapy Group, which offers patients coordinated chronotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and psychotherapy, according to individual needs.
Napoleon napped; so did Einstein; Churchill, too. What can naps do for YOU?
HOW DO WE EXPLAIN naps and siestas? The best explanation we have at this time involves the relationship between sleep pressure and circadian rhythms. Sleep pressure starts to build when we wake up. Assuming we wake up in the early- to mid-morning, it will reach a fairly high level by early afternoon, roughly halfway through the waking day.
Meanwhile, the morning burst of cortisol has worn off and the rise in core body temperature, another wakefulness signal, is only starting its gradual ascent toward a peak in the second half of the day. (It may even go through a small dip at this time of day.) The drive to sleep is strong enough to override the drive to stay awake and the result is that napping becomes a possibility.
Food can be an added pro-nap factor. Eating a large or heavy meal at lunchtime causes an insulin response that leads to a temporary drop in blood glucose. This in turn promotes drowsiness. However, the primary reason that siestas are both attractive and possible is clearly circadian. Even someone who skips lunch can end up wanting a nap because of accumulated sleep pressure combined with low levels of wakefulness signals.
The pros of napping
Is taking a siesta a good idea? Quite a lot of people have thought so, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill. And lab studies back them up. After a nap, people are more alert and productive, less tired, and more positive in their mood. Their logical reasoning and decision-making skills improve, and if they have been learning something new or practicing a new skill, they retain it better after a nap. There is even research suggesting that regular napping reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. What’s not to like?
The cons of napping
Still, some cautions are in order. It matters when we nap and how long we nap. Studies in which people were encouraged to take naps at different times of day confirm what most of us probably already suspect. For adults with a normal sleep-wake pattern, the best time to nap is in the early afternoon, about halfway between morning wake-up and evening bedtime. Napping later in the day, however, may have an unfortunate impact that evening. Naps deplete sleep pressure, and the later that happens, the less time there is for sleep pressure to build up again by bedtime.
How long a nap is best?
It is still making its way up toward the “ready-to sleep” level at bedtime, when your circadian rhythms of melatonin release and body temperature drop have already reached that point. Sleep pressure and the circadian cycle have gotten temporarily out of sync, and until they get back in harmony, you will have trouble falling asleep.
Researchers have also studied the effects of varying the length of naps. Surprisingly, it turns out that alertness and cognitive skills improve after as little as ten minutes of napping. That is enough time to relieve fatigue, too. Naps of twenty minutes or half an hour do not provide any greater benefits, and they are also more likely to set off a period of grogginess or sleep inertia. Those who take longer naps, of an hour or more, build up even more sleep inertia. There may be other gains from their deeper sleep, such as more creative problem solving, but it takes them even more time to return to full alertness and effectiveness.
Dr. Michael Terman : December 14, 2015 7:00 am : Michael Terman – Ph.D
Light Therapy Has Not Been an Option for Major Depression. Until Now.
Posted on Psychology Today December 14, 2015
It’s not news that antidepressants often don’t work. Even psychiatrist Thomas R. Insel, as director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said, “The bottom line is that these medications appear to have a relatively small effect in patients broadly classified as having depression.”
On top of that, the superiority of antidepressants compared with placebo in clinical trials has been declining over the past 20 years. Placebos are doing better than ever — so much so that some doctors are proposing that they’re legitimate treatments. more »
Dr. Michael Terman : November 10, 2015 7:00 am : Michael Terman – Ph.D
How Can You Find a Shortcut to Spring When the Chips are Down?
Welcome back, Dr. Elizabeth Saenger, who graced us last spring with her first post, The Opposite of Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Deborah’s Story, the start of a true family drama. Now fall is upon us, and the prevailing mood in this wonderful family is turning around. Jump back to Elizabeth’s first post to set the stage for what follows here. —Michael Terman
Ruth lives by the beach in Rockaway in New York. In the summer, she strolls by the dunes, or basks in the sun, enjoying the waves and the people. However, when winter comes around, Ruth’s alter ego crawls out. And then she is, by her own admission, “slower than cold tar poured down a hill backwards.” more »
Jet lag can ruin a vacation or business trip. Some travelers are more vulnerable than others. Major factors are east/west direction and number of time zones crossed. In Part I, Dr. Oren pointed to circadian rhythms disrupted by the sudden shift in the light-dark cycle. Here he points also to activity and rest patterns, and offers a program to minimize ill effects. In Part II of his jet lag series for Psychology Today, Dan develops a set of practical schedules of light-dark exposure and activity-rest scheduling to ease your long distance travel woes. The prescription is specific both to the distance and direction of your trip. more »
Dr. Michael Terman : March 24, 2014 7:00 am : Michael Terman – Ph.D
A new lamp and a light filter to help you sleep make implausible claims.
In a February 2014 post we showed two lamps that claim to ease sleep onset by eliminating the activating blue component of white light. The first in the market, several years ago, was the LowBlueLights (LBL) LED lamp. The latest is the Good Night lamp. Problem is, unlike the LBL, the Good Night does not eliminate the wavelengths of light that cause undesired activation in the hours before sleep, suppression of nighttime melatonin by the pineal gland, circadian rhythm phase delays, and sleep-onset insomnia. In fact, this lamp doesn’t differ substantially in blue emission from a standard 85¢ incandescent bulb. more »