The Need to Know About Naps
There is something about the afternoon that puts a lull in individuals’ moods and alertness.
In today’s hectic and fast paced society, finding time to nap is a rarity in itself; however, many individuals claim that a quick “power nap” allows them to catch up on sleep and get a burst of energy. As individuals across the world become more sleep deprived, naps are not only becoming more acceptable, but also necessary.
Personally, every time I nap I must set aside an entire afternoon because I wake up feeling more drowsy and drained than prior to the nap. This groggy feeling that comes after a nap is the result of napping for too long of a time period. Naps should be around 15-30 minutes long to avoid slipping into delta sleep (deep sleep). Once one is in deep sleep, being woken up from or completing phase of sleep causes one to feel extremely tired. If choosing to take a longer nap, it is suggested that one naps for an hour to an hour and a half to complete a full sleep cycle. This, however, will reduce your alertness for around an hour after napping.
There are three types of napping according to the National Sleep Foundation. Planned Napping is characterized by intentionally setting aside time to nap during a day, which is often done to prepare for a night when one is aware that they will not have ample opportunity for sleep in the near future. Emergency Napping is characterized by immediate need to rest and inability to continue with whatever activity you were engaged in. Habitual Napping is characterized by consistent nap schedule each day. 1
There are plenty of beneficial reasons to slide back into bed midday and nap. Regular napping has been known to reduce stress, reduce the risk of heart disease and strengthen the ability to pay close attention to details. Some cultures value a daily siesta and are known for having a more relaxed outlook and productive work ethic. Faster paced, more industrialized nations such as the United States, Japan, Germany and Russia are known for not endorsing daytime napping.3
If individuals have a difficult time falling asleep at night, napping is not encouraged because it pushes back the time you would be falling asleep leading to a restless night and lack of sleep necessary for the next day’s success. Specialists actually recommend napping as long as it is done in a consistent pattern each day. Irregular napping can make consistent nocturnal sleep impossible.2
Late afternoon napping is discouraged for everyone and especially senior citizens who have difficulty sleeping. Because that period of time is so close to the average bedtime for most individuals, napping too late will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night and wake up the following morning.
While napping may seem an unattainable action for most of us, half of the world’s population finds time to nap in the stretch from 1 to 4 p.m. and the average American naps one or two times each week. 2 Many sleep specialists believe that napping can actually be very beneficial to individuals who are not able to get consistent nocturnal rest.
Kick the coffee habit and try napping as a remedy to your midday sleepiness.
1. National Sleep Foundation—Napping; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/napping
2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.
3. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.