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Is it Good or Bad to Take a Nap?

by Sonia Chartier, on 6 November 2017, Stress and sleep
nap

As an adult, you probably haven’t been encouraged to nap since you were a child. Indeed, most companies wouldn’t be all that understanding if you were caught dozing off during the day, but research has shown that power naps can actually increase productivity.

This article explores whether napping during the day really is such a good idea and the right way to power nap.

Is napping really a good idea?

More and more people seem to be taking to the idea of “power napping,” with some companies going as far as installing napping stations and some universities trying to vote them in! But for most of us, being caught dozing off at our desk would probably lead to disciplinary action or a few sharp words at best.

Is power napping the way to go? There certainly does seem to be an argument for it and research apears to support it. As the National Sleep Foundation puts it, 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep for short periods at a time. Humans are normally counted in the minority category, but it’s still unclear whether this is correct.

Children and the elderly frequently nap during the day, and some cultures embrace a good afternoon snooze. In Spain, many shops close for a couple of hours in the afternoon so that people can have their “siesta,” and in China it’s a considered a constitutional right that workers be allowed to break after lunch to rest for an hour.

And there might be some benefits to this line of thinking. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science, a post-lunch power nap may improve your mental performance and alertness. A study conducted by NASA also boasted similar findings, stating that a 26-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.

So a quick power nap in the afternoon may actually improve your performance at work, but what about other areas of your health?

Well, some studies report that napping can lower stress levels too! This makes sense when you think about it—I don’t know about you, but I always feel a bit more frazzled when I’m running low on sleep. Apparently, napping can help lower tension, which not only decreases stress levels but also lowers your risk of heart disease!

Lastly, I’d like to share one last titbit about the benefits of napping, and it concerns caffeine. If you find yourself feeling a bit drowsier during the day, chances are you place your trust in a mid-morning cup of tea or coffee. However, some research has shown that a well-timed nap can make more of a difference than a caffeine-laced beverage.

Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the study concluded that a power nap of between 10 and 30 minutes might be more effective than a cup of coffee. This is because short naps have the same effects as those associated with coffee. All forms of caffeine inevitably lead to a crash, whereas napping for the right amount of time should leave you feeling refreshed for the whole day!

How long should I nap for?

It goes without saying that daytime napping will not restore lost nighttime sleep, and I would advise against taking daytime naps if you suffer from insomnia. It’s also important to note that it’s the length of the nap that really matters.

Napping for too long can have an adverse effect on your health. If you sleep for too long and enter deep sleep, your body expects to complete a normal sleep cycle. Once you wake up, you can suffer from sleep inertia, wherein you feel more tired than you did before your nap.

Not only that, sleeping too long during the day will affect your nocturnal sleep patterns, resulting in more episodes of insomnia. Some studies even suggest that napping too long during the day may make you more predisposed toward diabetes!

So how long should you nap for? Most sources suggest that the ideal power nap should be somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes, and certainly no longer than 60 minutes!

How do you take the perfect power nap?

Ideally, if you are planning to take a quick power nap during the day, I’d consider taking it in the afternoon, sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. If you nap any later than this, there’s a chance it could upset your ability to sleep well at night.

However, this is a general guide based on the idea that you will normally be getting up anywhere between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. If you do shift work, the times at which you get up and go to bed at vary, so some adjustment may be needed.

The next thing you’ll need to consider is timing. Remember that it’s important not to nap for too long, otherwise you’ll likely end up entering a deep sleep phase and waking up feeling groggier and more sluggish. Ideally, aim for about 20 minutes of snooze time. Set an alarm to make sure you don’t overdo it and try to sleep in a slightly upright position to help decrease your chances of falling into a deep sleep.

Of course, for most of you, the idea of being able to fall asleep immediately probably sounds less plausible than riding a unicorn on your daily commute. This is why I’d recommend modifying your environment. If you’re napping at home, opt for your couch instead of your bed and make sure the room temperature isn’t too hot or too cold.

Try to block out or reduce bright lights or noise and consider deep breathing techniques if you struggle to relax. Don’t worry if you find it difficult to fall asleep the first few times—in the beginning you might be conscious of your time limit or feel guilty about resting during the day. After some practice though, you’ll eventually become more adjusted to the routine.

Once you’ve woken up from your nap, I’d recommend stepping outside for five minutes. The fresh air can be very stimulating, and a few minutes in the sun will give your body a chance to produce more vitamin D, an excellent nutrient for boosting brain development and immune function!

Although napping can be a quick way to perk you up during the day, it’s important to remember what I said earlier. If you suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation, napping will not solve your sleep problems. Instead, you should focus on regulating your nocturnal sleep patterns, perhaps by changing certain aspects of your lifestyle or diet.

If you have trouble sleeping at night, consider a natural sleep remedy like Deep Sleep. Made with extracts of fresh valerian and hops, this remedy should gently balance your sleep patterns and ensure that you have a well-earned night’s rest. And unlike pharmaceutical sleeping aids, Deep Sleep will not cause side-effects such as drowsiness, so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested.

References:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4001978/Students-university-vote-overwhelmingly-spend-40-000-ridiculous-Google-style-nap-pods-case-dropping-library.html
https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping
https://sleep.org/articles/napping-around-the-world/
https://draxe.com/power-nap/
http://www.mikestevens.com/gutenblog/2011/08/23/the-amazing-26-minute-nasa-power-nap/
https://sleep.org/articles/napping-health-benefits/
http://lifehacker.com/naps-vs-coffee-which-is-better-when-youre-exhausted-1730643671
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11872199/Why-power-naps-may-be-bad-for-your-health.html

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