Are your afternoons getting lazier and less productive? Does a high of caffeine also seem not to work? Consider napping for 10 to 20 minutes, called the power nap, for it is proven to rid you of daytime fatigue and improve alertness. Still doubt the power of daytime naps and the benefits they could offer? Read on. This article explores the benefits of napping, the ideal time and amount of time to nap, and the dos and don’ts of napping. Let’s go. Siesta it is!
At a glance:
- Napping may not be for you if you can’t fall asleep during the day. As long as you get the night’s sleep and are satisfactorily productive during the day, naps are not necessary.
- Take naps before 3 pm
- Napping once a day is enough
- Short naps of 10 to 30 minutes are ideal for healthy adults
- Take longer naps, up to 90 minutes only when you are sleep-deprived
- You may have an urge to snack after waking up from a nap. Don’t snack on processed or junk foods. Opt for healthy snacks like nuts or fruits.
- Having a cup of coffee just before a nap will not only wake you refreshed but extra-charged.
What is napping? How is it different from sleep?
Sleep during the night typically has four stages.
- Stage 1, lasting only one to seven minutes, is the briefest and is also with the lightest sleep. You can be easily awakened during this stage of sleep.
- Stage 2, about 20-25 minutes, is when your muscles relax, and your body functions slow down. Your sleep is still light.
- Stage 3 is the deeper, restorative sleep that may last between 20 and 40 minutes. It is usually hard to wake you during this stage of sleep.
- Next is the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage, when the body’s muscles are temporarily paralysed, and there is rapid movement of the eyes under your eyelids. Also, there’s elevated heart rate and increased brain activity. REM sleep is vital for memory consolidation, emotional processing, and brain development. An adult needs at least 2 hours of REM sleep, and less than that can affect your mood, memory, and learning abilities.
Your night’s sleep is for several hours; during this time, you will go through the four stages multiple times.
On the contrary, a nap is a short period of sleep, usually occurring during the daytime. You won’t go through all four sleep stages when you are napping.
Typically, you will nap for 20 minutes and be in stage 2, sleeping light enough to wake up easily. When your nap time exceeds 30 minutes, you may get into a deep sleep (stage 3), and when it is more than an hour, you also go into the REM cycle.
Is napping good or bad?
Napping is good when done the right way.
Generally, 10-30 minutes of daytime nap, also called a power nap, benefits most people. When the napping time is way more than this, it will make you groggy instead of feeling fresh and alert.
However, if the nap time is about 90 minutes, you will wake fresh because you will complete a full cycle of sleep (comprising all four stages). While a longer nap does not affect a healthy adult, it may negatively impact older adults.
Also, when this nap is towards the evening, it won’t give the intended benefits and may interfere with your night’s sleep.
What are the benefits of daytime naps?
While naps are a norm in toddlers, most wonder if adults need one. Many studies have found that naps are very beneficial for adults, so when you can have one every day, you must do so.
The following are the benefits of naps during the daytime.
1. You will be more alert
This is the immediate benefit you will notice with daytime naps.
Your brain works efficiently after a power nap. In other words, you are more alert and sharp to your job and surroundings.
Adenosine levels, a neurotransmitter promoting sleep, build with both mental and physical activities.
Had your work day been intense, or you were sleep-deprived the last night, your adenosine levels would increase, trying to slow you down and make you sleepy. A mid-day nap decreases adenosine; hence, your cognitive abilities get efficient after a nap.
Daytime naps can provide:
- Improved endurance
- Improved reaction time
- Improved cognitive abilities
So, take a nap when you are sleep-deprived or have a long haul at work. Your post-lunch time will be equally effective as your morning. This applies not only to office work but also to physical work. Studies show that athletes’ performance also increased after a daytime nap.
2. You have a better memory
Our brains consume so many things during our wakeful period. The brain observes, listens, sees, reads, and senses a hell of a lot of things. It sifts through them and sorts them into long-term memory through memory consolidation.
Memory consolidation occurs every night during sleep. However, a regular daytime nap schedule can benefit and improve memory consolidation, which means you will remember many things over the long term!
3. Your risk of cardiovascular disease lowers
A study found that the risk of cardiovascular disease decreases when a person naps during the daytime. However, you must remember naps can negatively affect and may actually increase the risk of heart disease when your naps are too long and you nap too many times a day.
4. The immune system gets stronger
Sleep deprivation causes the release of pro-inflammatory markers, such as cytokines and norepinephrine, which may contribute to a decrease in the body’s immunity. Further, sleep deprivation may increase cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to anxiety and listlessness.
Naps during the daytime can compensate for sleep deprivation, improving the immune system and cellular function and can further benefit by maintaining the cortisol levels at optimum.
When to nap?
Take naps in the early afternoon, between 2 pm and 3 pm. Napping after 3 pm can interfere with your night’s sleep, especially in older adults who may already have trouble sleeping through the night.
How long to nap?
Sleep experts agree on the 30-90 rule of daytime naps. You either nap for 30 minutes or for 90 minutes. Anything in between may make you feel groggy due to sleep inertia instead of fresh and alert.
During a 10 to 30-minute nap, you will be in stage 2 of the sleep cycle when you wouldn’t have gone into deep sleep. So you wake up refreshed.
During a 90-minute sleep, you sleep for a complete cycle and are in stage 1 or 2 of the next sleep cycle. So again, you will wake refreshed.
A 30-minute nap is good for a healthy adult who sleeps well at night.
A 90-minute nap can boost your memory and enhance your creativity and hence is recommended for:
- Students who need to remember several things they learn during the day
- For creative people like artists, musicians, etc.
- For highly sleep-deprived individuals
Are you an older adult?
For older adults, taking daytime naps has been linked to various benefits, such as a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases and enhanced cognition and brain health. Nevertheless, research has shown that excessive daytime napping in older adults can raise the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It may also result in cognitive impairment, leading to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Moreover, it may cause insomnia at night.
Short naps taken in the early afternoon benefit a healthy adult in several ways, including improved memory, enhanced creativity, and increased alertness. If you are an older adult, it is essential to have naps no more than 90 minutes because longer naps can affect your health negatively instead of providing benefits. Nevertheless, not all healthy adults need a nap. If you can go without one, you may very well!