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Is Napping Good for You?

A question many of us want the answer to: is napping good for you? While naps aren’t just for babies, not all naps were created equal; some are more helpful than others. So, let’s take a look at the pros, cons and how to have the most effective nap possible.

Are naps good for you?

A nap is a short period of sleep, taken during the day, often in the afternoon. They can be effective if you’re sleep deprived, or need to relax and recharge. However, napping at the wrong time, or for too long, can backfire1 and have adverse effects. But, when done right, naps can support your body clock and help maintain your energy levels during the day.

Benefits of napping

Getting some shut eye during the day can have its benefits. Some of these include:

  1. Boosting memory
  2. Improving your mood & regulating emotions
  3. Improving job performance, including memory
  4. Easing stress
  5. Reducing fatigue
  6. Improving learning
  7. Making you more alert2

Downsides to napping

It’s not all good news, a nap can have its downsides, particularly for some individuals. Some of the negative effects include:

  1. Difficulty sleeping at night
    • This can be particularly true for those with insomnia, or who have trouble sleeping
  2.  Feeling groggy and/or disoriented upon waking up

The different types of nap

Understanding napping better can help you get the most effective rest and make it work for you. What are you hoping to get out of a nap? The different types3 are:

Prophylactic nap

This is taken in precaution, anticipating sleep loss, for example before a long flight. Night shift workers will often sleep during the day to better stay awake during work.

Recovery nap

If you’re sleep deprived and need to catch up on sleep, a nap can be taken in order to compensate for this.

Essential nap

Those who are sick should take naps, as their needs for sleep are greater. This is because your immune system needs to promote healing, which requires more energy.

Fulfillment nap

These are most commonly scheduled into the days of infants or children, as their needs for sleep are higher than that of adults.

Appetitive nap

These are taken just simply for the enjoyment of napping, for example to boost energy levels or improve mood.

How to take the best nap possible

Here’s how to set yourself up for the most effective nap you can.

Get the timing right

With napping, it really is all about timing. Napping too late in the day could affect your ability to fall asleep at night. Try to nap around the halfway point from when you woke up to when you plan to go to bed. Avoid napping after 3pm! Aim for around midday if you can, or you could risk interrupting your sleep at night.

Optimise your sleep environment

Having a healthy sleep environment matters, so do the following:

  1. Block out all light, it helps you fall asleep faster
  2. Make sure you’re as comfortable as possible
  3. Keep the room temperature cool, but ensure you’re warm
  4. Make sure it’s quiet

Try to relax

A nap can help you destress and unwind, but not if you’re struggling to relax. Try to let go of worries and drift off for a bit. If that sounds easier said than done, try practicing some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing.

Do power naps work?

So, how long should your nap be?

A power nap is a nap that’s short; no longer than 30 minutes4, ideally 20 minutes. Any longer than that, and you could wake up feeling groggy, as your body enters the deep sleep stage around the half-hour mark. Set an alarm to make sure you don’t exceed this time.

A power nap can be a great way to refresh your mind if you’re feeling sluggish or tired, and be good for your overall wellbeing. They’ve also been shown to boost the immune system and reduce stress.

Ideally, these are the best naps to take, as studies show that the optimum amount of time is between 10-20 minutes5.

Should you take longer naps?

The ideal nap stays in the first two sleep stages: light and intermediate sleep6. If you move into stages three and four (deep sleep) you can mess with your circadian rhythm, throwing your body clock off, like jet lag can.

You tend to enter deep sleep around the 40-minute mark7, which is why napping longer than this can leave you feeling groggy when you wake up.

That’s not to say you can’t nap for longer, but if you do, try to get a full 90 minutes. That way, your body will have a chance to cycle through all sleep stages, meaning you may feel less disoriented when you wake up. These longer naps can also help to leave you feeling better rejuvenated and more focused throughout the day.

Is a nap better than caffeine?

It can be tempting to reach for a coffee if you need an energy boost, or to improve your afternoon performance at work.

But, while both caffeine and napping can increase alertness and concentration, unlike caffeine, the benefits of napping can rejuvenate your whole body, improve memory and recall.

Is napping good for you?

In short: yes, a nap has many benefits for both body and mind. However, there are ways to optimise your naps to make them more effective and stop you feeling sluggish. Remember: they’re not a replacement for adequate sleep at night, but should be used as an energy booster. If you’re constantly running on a lack of sleep, this could have adverse effects on your health, so make sure to prioritise it. Sleep is as important for your health as nutrition and exercise, so look after yourself!

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