When you think of a chronic napper, what type of person comes to mind? You might imagine someone unemployed, lazy, or unhealthy. The truth is, there are plenty of excellent ways naps improve your health – both mental and physical.
What Happens in the Brain When You Nap?
The brain goes through different sleep stages throughout the course of your nap.
- Micro nap: You fall into stage one (light sleep) for just a few seconds or minutes which improves memory or cognitive function.
- Power nap: This lasts between 10 and 20 minutes and can boost your motor learning skills. Your brain will make it to stage two but you’ll avoid deep sleep.
- 30 to 60 minutes: You’ll probably wake up groggy after reaching stages three and four which involve deep sleep. However, your decision skills might improve.
- 90 minutes or more: You’ll pass through all of the sleep stages. However, naps this long can disrupt your regular sleep schedule. A long nap can help boost creative problem-solving skills.
Everyone’s brain is different so naps don’t come in a one-size-fits-all package.
7 Ways Naps Improve Your Health Overall
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep deprivation is considered a public health crisis that affects one in three people.
Napping isn’t a replacement for a good night’s sleep, but it can certainly benefit health even in those who get their full eight each night. Here are a few ways naps improve your health.
- Napping reduces your risk of heart disease. One study found that people who occasionally nap are 12% less likely to develop heart disease.
- They improve memory. A study demonstrates that naps improve learning and memory recall.
- Naps are a natural mood booster. Another study shows that naps can help you control your emotions.
- They keep you and everyone safe. Sleep deprivation severely impacts motor skills and reaction times. Some compare it to driving while drunk.
- You’ll make fewer mistakes. Investigators attribute major disasters like Chernobyl to sleep deprivation. You might not face a problem that extreme, but you could suffer other mistakes.
- You’ll be equipped to tackle challenges. You’ll perform at optimal levels when you’re energized and alert. Remember that sleep deprivation impacts cognitive function.
- Naps help you make better decisions. The same study relating to mood found that naps can help you make less impulsive decisions.
This doesn’t mean napping is always right for everyone at every time of the day. The National Sleep Foundation explains, “some people have trouble sleeping any place other than their own bed, making a nap at the office or anywhere else unlikely. Other people simply have trouble sleeping in the daytime; it could be that certain individuals are more sensitive to the midday dip than others – those who are may feel sleepier and have an easier time napping. Here are some other negative effects:
- Naps can leave people with sleep inertia, especially when they last more than 10-20 minutes. Sleep inertia is defined as the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep. While this state usually only lasts for a few minutes to a half-hour, it can be detrimental to those who must perform immediately after waking from a napping period. Post-nap impairment and disorientation is more severe, and can last longer, in people who are sleep deprived or nap for longer periods.
- Napping can also have a negative effect on other sleeping periods. A long nap or a nap taken too late in the day may adversely affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, a nap will only amplify problems.
- One study has indicated that napping is associated with increased risk of heart failure in people already at risk.
How to Become a Pro Napper
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are three main types of naps: planned, emergency, and habitual.
If you’ve ever woke up from a nap feeling worse than before, it was probably due to something called “sleep inertia” which means that you woke up during deep sleep.
The key to reaping the benefits is designing the right nap strategy.
- Aim for a 10- to 30-minute nap each day.
- Schedule your nap between two and three PM (if you work from nine to five).
- Find a place to lay down – don’t nap sitting at your desk.
- Atmosphere matters: a cool and dark room is best for all sleep.
- Monitor your progress with a chart or wheel to find the perfect length and time for your nap.
Finding balance is key.
It’s Time to Remove the Napping Stigma
In our live-to-work culture, napping is frowned upon and associated with many negative qualities like laziness. But the truth is, napping has many benefits that can improve overall health – when used in moderation.
It’s time to break the stigma associated with napping. Find the time, place and schedule that best fits your lifestyle.