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Snooze You Can Use

10-minute naps are more effective than extra hours of sleep at night

If you find yourself drained in mid-afternoon, try a brief nap. Just 10 minutes works for many people. These quick catnaps work better at relieving tiredness than sleeping an extra two hours at night, according to Jim Horne, a sleep expert at Loughborough University in England.

Brief naps are the key, says Horne. "Once the body gets beyond 10 minutes, it starts to think that it is night time, and the full-blown sleep process starts setting in. If you wake up once that has started, say after 25 minutes, you will feel really yucky." The Times of London adds that sleeping longer at night can work, but it backfires sometimes, leading to frequent awakenings throughout the night.

The energy dip in mid-afternoon may be hardwired into humans, some researchers say. And a breakfast or lunch consisting of simple carbohydrates like snack foods or white bread can make it worse. Starchy foods create a surge of insulin in the blood. The low blood sugar that follows an hour or so later makes you sleepy and unable to concentrate. The Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader reprints a feature from the Stamford Advocate with advice for overcoming afternoon lulls, especially when you can't take a nap.

If chronic insomnia is the reason your mid-day energy flags, The Guardian describes a remedy developed by sleep researchers in North Carolina. Their approach teaches people to adopt better sleeping habits to avoid sleep medications, which often only work for a short period of time.

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