Napping is underestimated and stigmatised in modern society. The prevailing popular belief is that napping is a practice exclusively reserved for young children, the elderly and the sick. However, napping is proven to be an amazing and effective tool which can improve performance and combat the effects of sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness. What’s more, it is free and it does not have severe or permanent side effects.
Still not convinced? This article will take you through the main scientific findings, gathered during the last couple of decades, regarding the power of naps.
Benefits of napping
- Improved productivity – Napping helps improve productivity and efficiency as it:
1) reduces subjective fatigue
2) increases levels of alertness
3) enhances cognitive and motor performance
4) improves logical reasoning
5) boosts decision making and problem solving-skills
- Better health – Napping helps battle sleep deprivation and its detrimental effects, as it:
1) restores energy levels
2) reduces unhealthy food cravings
3) reduces the probability of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart problems
- Better mood – Numerous studies have concluded that naps help our mood, as they increase positive emotions. Moreover, some qualitative studies have shown that habitual nappers perceive napping as a positive and pleasurable experience.
Powering up your naps
Now that we have discussed the value of naps, you might be wondering how to nap properly. Here are some tips to get the most out of your naps:
Keep naps short!
Short naps (between 10 and 20 minutes) are recommended since you can avoid the grogginess that follows longer naps (over 30 minutes) without compromising the benefits. Furthermore, the ideal duration of a nap depends on your preferences, how much of a napper you are and your schedule, of course.
Choose the right time to nap
Ideally, naps should not be taken too early in the morning, as you probably wouldn’t be tired enough to fall asleep quickly; nor should they be taken after 4PM in order to avoid affecting your night sleep. That is why, in general, people prefer an after lunch nap, or siesta; it helps to fight the afternoon slump and gives an energy boost for the afternoon.
Find a proper napping spot
The environment we sleep in is very important, and it can make a difference to the quality and efficiency of naps. Therefore, always try to find a quiet, dark spot where you can rest comfortably.
Use nap time accessories
If you are unable to find an ideal spot to nap, try using accessories that could make your naps easier such as earplugs, eye masks, white noise / music etc. The possibilities are infinite, you just have to find what works for you and be creative.
1. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Napping [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org
2. Mednick, S.C. & Ehrman, M. (2006). The nap manifesto: what naps can do for you. In Take a Nap! Change your life (pp. 23 – 27). New York, NY, USA.: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
3. Mednick, S.C., Caic, D., J., Kanadya, J. & Drummond, S.P.A. (2008). Comparing the benefits of caffeine, naps and placebo on verbal, motor and perceptual memory. Behavioural Brain Research, 193, 79–86. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.04.028
4. Milner, C.E. & Cote, K. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18, 272 – 281. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x
5. Milner, C.E. & Cote, K. (2008). A dose-response investigation of the benefits of napping in healthy young, middle-aged and older adults. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 6, 2–15. doi:1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00328.
6. Tietzel, A.J. & Lack, L.C. (2001). The Short-Term Benefits of Brief and Long Naps Following Nocturnal Sleep Restriction. Sleep, 4, (3), 293 – 300.
7. Tietzel, A.J. & Lack, L.C. (2002). The recuperative value of brief and ultra-brief naps on alertness and cognitive performance. Journal of Sleep Research, 11, 213–218.
Please note: This article is not to be used as medical advice. If you are considering a sleep treatment please consult your doctor or medical professional. This post may contain affiliate links.
María Luisa Feijóo
María is a health psychologist who specialises in sleep physiology and medicine. She is also the founder of Terapia En Sueño, a health start-up based in Colombia whose objective is to promote positive sleep health and provide services for children, adolescents and adults suffering from sleep disorders.