Sleeping with science: Should you start napping on a daily basis?

We have discussed the importance of good sleep hygiene multiple times on our blog.  Good sleep – it’s not just about feeling awake during the day – it’s like a secret sauce for a healthy mind and body.  It helps our brains stay sharp, helps manage our hormones, keeps our immune system on its toes, and basically, helps everything tick just right. 

But what’s the deal with afternoon naps, you might wonder? Sure, they’re refreshing, but do they throw our regular sleep for a loop, or are they like a power-up for our health? Let’s dive into that.

Are we designed to nap during the day?  

This video by sleep scientist Matt Walker helps break down how napping serves a different purpose to our usual nightly sleep cycle.

Many of us shoot for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep in one solid chunk at night, which technically falls under the label of monophasic sleep – that’s one uninterrupted sleep during the night. But here’s the thing: maybe, just maybe, we’re not naturally wired for this kind of sleep schedule.

You’ve probably felt that afternoon slump before. When your energy seems to take a nosedive, and you’re fighting off sleepiness during those afternoon meetings. It’s easy to blame it on a hefty lunch, but the truth is, it’s kind of in our wiring. There is a predictable shift in our brain’s alertness during the afternoon. And guess what? It happens to most of us somewhere between the one to four pm mark.

Could this mean that perhaps our bodies were built for a biphasic sleep pattern? Meaning one longer bout of sleep at night and then a short afternoon nap during the day.

Is napping a good thing?

First things first – it’s essential to understand that taking an occasional nap isn’t a sufficient alternative to chronic sleep deprivation. It will not replace lost sleep nor offer all the health benefits of a full night’s sleep. 

With this in mind, it can still be highly beneficial for your mental and physical health, especially if you’re already getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. 

In short, short daily naps have been shown to improve cognitive performance. Studies suggest that naps that last less than 30 minutes can improve alertness and boost executive functioning, thus making it easier to take on complex tasks, with the effects noticeable for at least 2 hours post-nap. 

Napping has also been shown to improve creativity and problem-solving skills, improving your creative thinking and helping you boost performance in school and the workplace. 

Additional benefits of daily naps include improved mood, lower stress levels, and better reaction time. 

However, to enjoy any of these benefits and more, you’ll need to time your naps just right. 

One study found that naps of approximately 20 minutes improved the overall mood of participants. However, longer naps lasting more than 30 minutes are not typically associated with improved mood and increased feelings of well-being.

Ideally, your naps shouldn’t last longer than 30 minutes and should be taken in the early afternoon. If you’re working night shifts or have varying schedules, try to take your naps 4 to 5 hours before your regular bedtime at the latest.

Is napping always a good thing?

Although naps can be a great way to increase your energy levels and boost your mental performance, there are some drawbacks you should keep in mind. 

Primarily, you might experience temporary sleep inertia – the feeling of grogginess and confusion upon waking up. Sleep inertia can poorly impact your short-term memory, reaction time, reasoning, and learning. 

Secondly, you might have issues with nighttime sleep. Common problems include the inability to fall and/or stay asleep. 

Both sleep inertia and nighttime sleep issues can generally be overcome by timing your naps just right, as mentioned. Keep your naps short and take them long before your typical bedtime.

Final thoughts

Short naps taken at the right time of day can offer many benefits – from helping you improve cognitive functioning to boosting your mood. However, remember that they’re no substitute for a full night’s sleep, so you shouldn’t rely on them to make up for sleep deficiency. 

If you struggle to consistently sleep at night and wake in the morning, there may be a bigger problem underlying your difficulty. If despite your best efforts you can’t seem to make any progress, seek evaluation by a sleep specialist, or advice from health professionals.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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