Is Napping Good For You?
Sleeping is good for you; that’s one thing we can all agree on. But what about napping? It’s still sleep, after all, even if it’s done during the daytime. There are those who swear by their afternoon catnap, and those who avoid napping at all costs. Who’s in the right?
We’ll start with the bad news for those who love a little siesta in the middle of the day. Studies have found that regular daytime naps are linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and a range of other serious conditions.
If you regularly feel yourself needing to catch forty winks during the day, it could also be a sign that you’re not getting quality sleep during the night – and that’s a much bigger problem. Sleeplessness or insomnia has links to all kinds of health issues. We won’t list them all here, but any list that includes Alzheimer’s, depression, heart disease and obesity is a list we’d all like to avoid.
Based on this evidence, you might feel like swearing off your occasional naps for good… but hold your horses. Naps aren’t all bad – especially if you do them right.
A good old power nap can actually help to balance your hormones naturally and improve mental and physical performance – that is, if you’re napping by choice, rather than necessity.
The National Sleep Foundation found that naps can restore alertness and reduce mistakes and accidents. NASA even carried out their own study on military pilots. They found that a short nap of around forty minutes can improve performance by up to 34%.
The 'right' way to nap
A good old power nap can actually have a range of benefits – that is, if you’re napping by choice, rather than necessity. If you’re napping because you can hardly keep your eyes open, it’s a sign that your sleep routine isn’t serving you well enough. Work on improving your sleep quality at night, and you might find that you don’t need to rely on a nap to get through the day.
Naps that last for less than an hour can be beneficial, but if you’re napping for longer, your body will start to go through the five stages of sleep. If you’re roused from your sleep as your body descends into one of the deeper stages, you’re more likely to wake up with that classic groggy, sluggish post-nap feeling.
The most natural time to take a nap, based on light cycles and circadian rhythms, is between 2pm and 4pm. If you miss this window, try to avoid succumbing to the early evening nap – you’ll find it much harder to fall asleep at your regular bedtime, and your sleep schedule might end up skewed.