Napping isn’t just for babies. Studies show that afternoon naps are great for adults too. There’s no need to feel lazy for indulging in daytime sleep. A short nap in the afternoon can give a boost to your memory, improve productivity, release stress, and make you more alert. People with long working hours who prefer taking mid-day naps admit that if they don’t do so their mind won’t function properly and they feel dizzy all day. No amount of coffee can keep them into action. Research has suggested that for some, implementing a nap during the day could be even more beneficial than increasing the sleep hours at night.
Various studies prove that people who napped for 30 to 90 minutes during the daytime had better word recall which is a sign of good memory, than people who did not nap or who napped for longer than 90 minutes. One theory explains that long napping results in cognitive problems (trouble remembering, concentrating & learning new stuff). Naps longer than 90 minutes are similar to a ‘second sleep.’
So what are the benefits of sleeping in the afternoon? What’s the best time and way to take a nap? How it affects your night sleep, or does it improve your sleep quality? This article covers it all.
- How do afternoon naps affect the brain and improve overall health?
- What’s the best way to take a nap?
- FAQs on napping
How do afternoon naps affect the brain and improve overall health?
1. Naps can enhance your memory: Studies have shown that short sleep can increase your memory power and improve performance. A daytime nap can help you remember things and keep you focused as much as a full night’s sleep. Napping could help your brain draw connections between things you find out or work on. In one study, nappers found it easier to put together the information they got earlier in the day.
2. You get more creative after a nap: Do you ever wake up from a good sleep and ideas start pouring into your head? REM sleep, which typically starts 70 to 90 minutes after you fall asleep, activates parts of your brain associated with imagery. A nap with REM sleep can help you combine ideas in new ways to come up with answers.
3. It may lift your mood: If you’re feeling down, try taking a nap to lift your spirits. Napping, or even just resting for about an hour without falling asleep can brighten your outlook. Experts say relaxation that comes from lying down and resting is a mood booster, whether you fall asleep or not.
4. A 30-minute nap controls sleep inertia: A nap as short as 10 minutes (power naps) can be beneficial. But keeping your nap to 30 minutes or less so you don’t wake up feeling more tired is also important. That grogginess you can feel after a nap is called sleep inertia. A longer nap of more than 90 minutes may result in more of this feeling. The worst part is, after a long nap, you might require more time to wake up and transition back to work.
5. They're Good for Your Heart: A study found that people who napped for 45 to 60 minutes had controlled levels of blood pressure after going through mental stress. If you’re under a lot of pressure, a nap can release stress and improve your immune health. So an afternoon nap can help your body recover from pressure-filled situations and also reduce fatigue.
6. Naps are better than Caffeine: If you’re feeling tired but have undone work or study to finish, you may be better off taking a nap than sipping a cup of coffee. Compared to caffeine, napping can bring better focus and energy for several hours.
7. Naps can help you sleep better at night: This might seem completely illogical, but taking a nap during the day can help older adults improve sleep at night. Studies show a 30-minute nap between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. combined with moderate exercises, like a walk and stretching in the evening, helps improve nighttime sleep.
When should I take a nap?
To get the most benefits out of a nap, you need to time it right. Most people will find an afternoon snooze to be the most natural and helpful. Some say sleep between 2 and 3 p.m. is the most beneficial when humans naturally have a dip in alertness. But if you’re well-rested, a slightly later nap is also okay. So, you should consider making time for a nap if you are:
- Experiencing new fatigue or unexpected sleepiness
- Are about to experience sleep loss — for example, due to a night shift at work or a long journey
- Want to make planned naps part of your daily routine
What's the best way to take a nap?
To get the most out of a nap, follow these tips:
1. Keep your naps short: Aim to nap for only 20 to 30 minutes. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward.
2. Take naps in the early afternoon: Napping after 3 p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep. There can be individual factors as well, such as your need for sleep, your sleeping schedule, your age, workload, and sometimes medication use. So determine your nap timing accordingly, that does not hinder your sleep cycle.
3. Create a restful environment. Take your nap in a quiet, dark place with a comfortable room temperature and few distractions. After waking up, give yourself time to wake up before resuming activities.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Napping
1. What is a Power nap?
A ‘power nap’ or catnap is a short sleep that terminates before deep sleep. It gives you a burst of energy and alertness. The duration of a power nap can last for 40 minutes or more varying from person to person. A power nap allows for the recovery of brain function, memory consolidation, and ridding of toxins that build up throughout the day.
2. What is REM sleep?
REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. During REM sleep, your eyes move around rapidly but don't send any visual information to your brain. Usually, REM sleep happens in several periods 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Each REM stage gets longer where your heart rate and breathing increase. You can have intense dreams during REM sleep since your brain is more active.
3. What if I overslept in the day instead of napping?
The 2 major problems that can happen if you exceed your nap timing are:
1. Temporary grogginess: People who take longer naps may feel groggy or disoriented immediately after they wake up. Sleeping longer can make you wake up from a deeper stage of sleep and you feel fuzzy-headed for the next 30 minutes.
2. Inability to sleep at night: People who take long naps during the day gradually develop insomnia at night. Your mind starts to overthink and create unnecessary thoughts if you’re simply lying on the bed and can’t sleep. Thus, long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep.
4. Could a sudden increased need for naps indicate a health problem?
Yes. If you're experiencing an increased need for naps and there's no obvious cause of new fatigue in your life, then talk to your doctor. You could be taking a medication or have a sleep disorder or any other medical condition that's disrupting your nighttime sleep.