Napping: Health Benefits And Tips For Napping
Healthy sleep is essential for folks of all ages, yet many don't get all the rest they need at night. This is why some take to daytime napping to catch up on all the hours of sleep they missed. However, not all who nap feel refreshed when they wake up, with some people finding daytime naps more disruptive than restorative.
Luckily, adjusting your napping habits can turn daytime sleep from terrible to essential. Keep reading to learn more about naps, why people take them, and how to achieve the best snooze of your life.
Types Of Naps
According to the Journal Of Sleep Research, there are several categories of naps, each with its own function and cause. Understanding these different types of short sleep can help you cultivate the practice of mindful napping, which can help you feel rejuvenated and refreshed despite poor sleep quality at night.
Here are the five main types of naps:
- Recovery napping: If you've just experienced a night of sleep loss, you probably feel a bit tired. Recovery napping can help even the most irregular nappers feel ready to take on the day ahead.
- Fulfillment napping: Daytime napping is essential for young children because they require more sleep than adults. These regularly scheduled naps are called "fulfillment naps" because they help meet a child's sleep requirement.
- Appetitive napping: Many frequent nappers enjoy the act of getting a little bit of shuteye during the day, which is where appetitive naps come into play. These naps can improve reaction time, cognitive function, or even emotional stability throughout the day.
- Essential napping: Whether you're experiencing something serious like cardiovascular disease or are fighting off the common cold, you need more rest. These sickness-induced naps are called essential naps, and they allow your body to fight off infections faster.
- Prophylactic napping: Prophylactic napping happens before a planned nocturnal sleep restriction. Night shift workers or students planning an all-nighter usually partake in prophylactic naps to stay awake throughout the night.
How Long Should I Nap?
The ideal nap duration is between 10 and 20 minutes because this timeframe sidesteps sleep inertia while keeping your regular sleep schedule intact. But why is this the ideal daily nap duration for the best possible nap time? It all comes down to a person's sleep cycle.
Here’s a breakdown of different nap time lengths:
- 5-10 minute naps: 5-minute naps may be convenient, but they aren’t very helpful. While you won't experience the negative associations of too-long naps, these are much too short to provide any of the typical benefits of sleeping.
- 10-20 minute naps: According to the National Sleep Foundation, 10-20 minute naps are ideal. During these short bouts of shuteye, your body enters stage 2 NREM sleep. This is when your brain gathers your memories and consolidates them into more concrete memories and knowledge.
- 20-45 minute naps: Stretching your daily nap duration into the 45-minute range means you're more likely to wake up groggy since your body enters REM sleep. These longer naps can help with cognitive function and sensory processing.
- 45-90 minute naps: While you may be tempted to get a full hour of sleep, this could result in you feeling worse than before you dozed off. Your body will have entered deep sleep within the 45-90 minute range, with a complete sleep cycle finishing around 90 minutes. If you need a longer nap, we recommend setting your alarm for two hours after you intend to sleep.
Why Do People Nap?
Self-reported napping behaviors name many reasons for frequent napping. Here are the few most common causes of habitual napping:
- Just experienced a night of sleep loss
- Preparation for a cognitively taxing activity
- To improve mental health
- For rest and relaxation
The above reasons are linked to a person's homeostatic sleep drive, the scientific term for the physical "pressure to sleep". Simply put, an individual's homeostatic sleep drive can be compared to the feeling of hunger. If you go a long time without eating, you'll get progressively hungrier, which is similar to the experience of staying up too long.
In the same way that snacking between meals staves off hunger, frequent napping relieves some of the pressure associated with your homeostatic sleep drive.
Is Napping Good For You?
Nothing is all good or bad, and naps are no exception. A person's experience with napping can be a coin-toss based on several factors, such as the time of day and daily nap duration. That said, there are many benefits and disadvantages of a short nap during daylight hours.
Benefits Of Napping
Habitual nappers know it best – regular naps have a laundry list of benefits, from solidifying your declarative memories to boosting your overall mood. But that's not all there is to frequent naps. Here's a list of reasons you should take a nap regularly.
Lowers Coronary Mortality Risk
One of the biggest (yet lesser-known) benefits of frequent napping is that it lowers cardiovascular risk factors and the occurrence of coronary artery disease.
According to a study in 2018, people who self-reported napping 1-2 times a week were 48% less likely to experience coronary mortality during a cardiac episode than individuals who didn't rest. This was especially true for participants who engaged in frequent napping (6-7 times a week), as regular napping improves an individual's overall physical health.
Improves Mood And Mental Health
Poor sleep quality can result in you being irritable during the day, but habitual napping can reverse terrible moods and improve overall mental health. In addition, mindful napping can calm a person's nerves and ease daily anxieties, while providing the rest your brain needs to tackle stressful situations objectively.
Boosts Weight Loss Efforts
The primary function of sleep is to regulate our body's natural processes. That means missing even a single hour of sleep can drastically affect our behavior during the day – which may lead some people to overeat.
According to a study in 2020, sleep deprivation triggers feelings of hunger and suppresses the hormone that communicates fullness to the rest of our bodies. As a result, sleep-deprived folks may eat more, sabotaging any weight loss efforts. However, habitual nappers may be able to sidestep this problem altogether since short naps refresh our bodies.
Bolsters Creative Abilities
We've already established that habitual nappers feel more refreshed during the day, but getting a bit of extra shuteye can also help you become a better creative thinker. Thomas Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history, famously credits his 15-minute power naps for giving him his creative edge when designing a new invention.
But that doesn't mean only geniuses should nap. While frequent napping might not help you invent world-changing technology, it will help you think more creatively and tackle problems more effectively.
Supercharges Cognitive Functions
If you're a student or lifelong learner struggling with a specific topic or problem, habitual napping might help you achieve more with less time. Short sleep sessions can bolster your cognitive ability, which helps folks take the analytic approach, slow the process of forgetting episodic memories, and consolidate working declarative memories into your long-term memory.
In short, it'll help you think logically, solidify new skills and ideas, and solve problems that might’ve stumped you initially.
Disadvantages Of Napping
While napping seems to be overwhelmingly beneficial, there are a few drawbacks to taking ill-timed naps. Here are the two main disadvantages of taking a less-than-ideal nap.
Difficulty With Nighttime Sleep
Frequent nappers may sometimes struggle with getting to sleep at night, especially if nap time stretches into an hour or more. Too much sleeping during the day can interfere with how much sleep you can get at night. We recommend keeping your naps relatively short and earlier in the day to avoid interfering with your sleep cycle.
Sometimes frequent nappers wake up feeling groggier than ever. This phenomenon is called sleep inertia, which usually happens after a 30-minute nap or even a full hour of sleep. These long naps allow your body to fall into a deeper sleep or "slow-wave sleep".
Effects Of Napping (By Age)
One of the most common (and true) beliefs about sleep is that children generally need more sleep than adults because of their higher sleep requirements. In addition, children and teens require more time asleep to aid in their physical and mental growth, which means that even irregular nappers may benefit more from a short doze.
That said, adults still gain many advantages by taking a short nap now and then. Here's how napping impacts individuals of all ages.
- Infants (up to 1 year old): Infants need the most sleep out of all developmental stages, and it’s normal for them to take up to four naps a day. These can range from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on the individual. According to numerous studies, regular naps for infants can aid the development of their cognitive and motor functioning as well as help build memories.
- Toddlers (1-2 years old): Once a child completes their first year of life, their sleep requirements decrease dramatically. That said, they still gain many benefits from a regular snooze. Toddlers who nap often may be better at self-regulating emotions and learning languages.
- Children (3-5 years old): Young children need up to 13 hours of sleep a day, with a considerable part of that occurring during daylight hours.
- Older children (6-12 years old): Sleep requirements become less stringent as individuals get into their sixth year and beyond. Napping at this age helps people learn faster and regulate their emotions more easily.
- Teens (13-17 years old): Rest is critical for teens, with many of them struggling with getting sufficient sleep at night. Daily naps can help them catch up with lost rest while improving cognitive function.
Adults experience the same benefits that younger people do when napping, such as improved cognitive processing and emotional regulation. However, regular naps may not always be viable for many adults due to employment or other, more pressing obligations.
The causes of naps change as people age, especially when they stretch out into an hour or more. For example, longer naps may signal that a person is suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or even depression.
When Should I Consider A Nap?
Generally speaking, you can nap anytime, as long as it isn't too close to bedtime. However, if you experience daytime sleepiness, know that you'll be missing out on sleep soon, or want to make naps a part of your daily routine, you should take that nap.
What's The Best Way To Take A Nap?
Achieving the perfect nap may seem impossible for many adults. However, there are various things you can do to improve your chances of getting the rest you need in 20 minutes or less, such as wearing an eye mask and keeping your nap short.
Here’s our concise guide to taking a great nap.
Wear An Eye Mask
Light is one of the deciding factors of a person's sleep quality because light levels determine our bodies' natural circadian rhythms. If you're trying to get some extra shuteye while the sun is still out, consider wearing an eye mask and shutting the blinds to darken your room.
Keep Your Daily Nap Duration Short
Long naps can severely affect your nighttime sleep. While limiting your snooze to under two hours is perfectly acceptable, we recommend keeping it under 20 minutes per day. This allows you to reap all the benefits of sleep without sleep inertia.
Set An Alarm
Oversleeping is one of the biggest problems irregular nappers experience, but modern technology has provided an easy solution in the form of alarm clocks and smartphones. Before you sleep, set an alarm that gives you enough time to nap plus a bit of leeway. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.
Napping late in the day may feel tempting after a long stretch at school or the office, but dozing so close to bedtime can sabotage a good night's rest. We recommend taking all naps before 5 PM, although that may be toeing the line for early sleepers.
Engage In Mindful Napping
While it may seem counterintuitive, setting a goal for yourself before dozing off may be helpful for your productivity, especially if you’re napping to gear up for work. This act of goal-setting is the prelude to mindful napping, which can help you achieve greater mood boosts when waking up.
Napping is a great way to get the benefits of proper sleep without spending hours dozing during the day, but improper naps can be disruptive instead of helpful. Luckily, achieving the perfect nap is usually just a few adjustments away. Even just napping earlier or getting the right mattresses or sleep accessories can make a huge difference.
If you’re ready to take control of your naps and wake up feeling refreshed, check out our wide selection of mattresses, pillows, seat cushions, and more!
Frequently Asked Questions About Napping
Is a two-hour nap too long?
A two-hour nap is perfectly fine if you're sleep-deprived, but any longer might impact your sleep cycle. We recommend setting your alarm before taking a long nap to avoid oversleeping.
Can I nap every day?
Yes, you can. Napping offers a long list of benefits that can be enhanced through regular rest, resulting in better performance at work, school, or even in your relationships.
What’s the difference between napping and sleeping?
A snooze is generally considered a nap when it lasts less than two hours, while anything longer than 6 hours is considered full-on sleeping.