Is Napping Good?: Yes or No
The need for a nap doesn’t always end when you graduate preschool. In fact, sometimes a nice, long nap on a lazy day is just what you want. Considering many adults are sleep deprived, napping may be something to think about. But is napping good for your health or does it interfere with your sleep at night?
Benefits of Napping
Sleep deprivation can have a variety of consequences including an increased risk of accidents, moodiness and memory problems. Although getting enough sleep at night is essential for good health, napping can help. According to Harvard Medical Center, napping can be beneficial in several ways. Naps can have the following effects:
- Increase alertness
- Promote relaxation
- Improve energy
- Reduce accidents and mistakes
- Boost mood
If napping is so good for you, should we snooze whenever we can? Not so fast. If you nap too close to bedtime, it can lead to difficulty falling sleep at night. It can also decrease the quality of your sleep leaving you tossing and turning overnight.
Tips for Getting the Most from Your Nap
You might think napping is a no-brainer. After all, you just find a quiet spot, pull up the covers and close your eye. Right? Not exactly. The time of day you snooze and the length of your nap are key to feeling refreshed and still sleeping well at night.
How long should I nap?
According to the Mayo Clinic, research indicates you should limit your nap to 30 minutes. That’s because a short power nap allows you to wake up during a light stage of sleep, so you’ll awake feeling refreshed instead of groggy.
If time allows, a 90-minute nap is also beneficial. Napping for 90 minutes likely allows you to go through a complete sleep cycle. You’ll start at the lightest stage and move into a deep sleep and back to light again.
But naps between 30 and 60 minutes may not be ideal. Snoozing for that length of time may mean you moved into a deep stage of sleep, but have not slept long enough to cycle back to a light stage. If you are jolted from a nap while you’re in a deep stage of sleep, you might feel groggy and even more tired than when you laid down.
When should I nap?
The time of day you nap is also important. The best time to nap may depend on your sleep schedule at night. For instance, if you work overnight, a nap in the late afternoon may help you get through your shift.
For most people who work traditional hours the best time of day to nap is in the afternoon around 3:00 pm. After eating lunch, blood sugar levels may naturally dip, which may make you sleepy. If you’re in the middle of your workday, you might not be able to take a power nap. Just be sure not to nap too close to bedtime. Make sure you wake up at least three hours before you hit the sack for the night.
Since you might not have a lot of time to devote to a midday snooze, set the stage so you can fall asleep quickly. Most people sleep best in a quiet, dark environment. If possible, turn off your phone and limit distractions.
Another option is a sleep app that combines relaxing music and sounds, which might help you drift off to dreamland. While you’re at it, set the alarm to prevent snoozing too long.
Lastly, napping is not something to feel guilty about. It can be good for you. If you need a nap, consider whether it’s becoming an everyday occurrence or an occasional thing. If you’re often struggling to stay awake and find you need a nap daily, you are probably not getting quality sleep at night. Keep in mind, a nap every day should not replace getting enough sleep at night. Consider your habits and talk to your healthcare provider about improving your sleep.
Harvard Medical School. Napping May Not be Such a No-No. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/napping-may-not-be-such-a-no-no Retrieved January 2017.
Mayo Clinic. When Should I Consider a Nap? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319?pg=2 Retrieved January 2017.
Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT is a medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience.