Is it Okay to Nap?
Some sleep specialists swear up and down that napping should be illegal. Naps disrupt the nighttime sleep patterns, they say, and can make it harder to fall asleep at night. And when you’re retraining yourself to positive sleep habits, that can be the case. But if your sleep schedule is relatively healthy, naps can help you be at your best. Here’s how.
If you sleep well at night, napping during the day can help improve your mental alertness, increase memory capacity, even risk of heart disease. Sleeping for a short time during the day gives your brain—and your body— the chance to recuperate from morning activities and get ready for the rest of the day.
If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep problems, though, don’t nap. In insomniacs, a nap is only “another episode of fragmented sleep,” Ralph Downey III of Loma Linda University Medical Center’s Sleep Disorders Center told Health. Even a quick power nap can reduce your sleep drive when it’s time to go to bed for the night, so get your nighttime sleep habits under control before you add a nap to your sleep equation.
The best time of day to nap is between 1pm and 3pm. It’s late enough in the day to let your body be fully alert and productive in the morning, but early enough to minimize the impact on your evening sleep. Sleeping right after lunch may also give your body the chance to work on digesting your food without taking away from your afternoon alertness.
Different lengths of nap actually affect your brain in different ways, according to WebMD:
- 20-minute “power nap”: From 10-30 minutes of sleep will get you increased alertness and enhanced motor learning skills (typing, piano playing). This length of time gets you into restorative “stage 2 sleep” without the grogginess-inducing after-effects of longer naps.
- 30—60 minute “long nap”: This mid-length nap gives your brain time to enter “slow wave sleep” and helps improve decision making capabilities (vocabulary memorization, recall of directions).
- 60—90 minute “super snooze”: An extended daytime nap actually reaches the deepest stages of REM sleep, helping you literally make new connections in the brain and enhancing your creative problem solving skills. This stretch of sleep has the greatest chance of throwing off your nighttime sleep habits, so not everyone can do the “super snooze” without side effects.
Naps can be a blessing or a curse. If you have trouble sleeping at night, a nap will just make it harder to sleep well—but it’s so tempting to take naps when you’re already sleep deprived, so you wind up perpetuating a vicious cycle. If you sleep well at night, though, getting a nap during the day can actually help your brain function at its best all afternoon and into the evening.
Only you can decide whether regular napping is the best personal choice.
Do you nap?
Author Bio: +Michelle Gordon is a sleep expert who researches and writes about sleep and health, and is an online publisher for the latex mattress specialist Latexmattress.org.