Everyone knows long hours of sleep are essential for small children to grow up strong and healthy. But what about adults? A brief nap during the day can be the perfect solution for some. Dr. Adnan Pervez, a sleep medicine physician at REX Pulmonary Specialists answers four key questions about the health benefits and risks for taking a quick daytime snooze.
1. What are the benefits of napping?
Taking a short nap can offer health benefits such as:
- Improved mood
- Increased relaxation
- Increased alertness
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved performance
- Improved memory
‘Memory consolidation is one of the major benefits of a good long night of sleep,’ Dr. Pervez says.
2. Who should consider taking a nap and why should they?
Depending on your daily schedule, napping can be beneficial under certain circumstances.
Habitual napping occurs when you take a brief snooze at the same time each day. ‘People who are consistently unable to get enough sleep at night would benefit from a habitual nap, taken at the right time and for the right duration,’ says Dr. Pervez.
Planned napping is particularly useful for night shift workers. ‘For many people a nap before they depart for their night shift, or during a break in the early part of the shift, in combination with strategic exposure to light and use of caffeine at the right time can help them cope with an unusual schedule,’ Dr. Pervez says.
Emergency napping is advised when you’re too sleepy to continue a crucial activity, like if you feel drowsy while driving. ‘If drivers are feeling sleepy, they are typically advised not to rely upon extraneous measures like rolling down the window or turning up the music. Instead, we advise people to park at a rest stop and take a short nap before continuing,’ says Dr. Pervez.
3. When and how long should you nap for?
For people who would benefit from napping, Dr. Pervez recommends a 10 to 20 minute nap in the early afternoon. At the most, try limiting your naps to no more than 30 minutes. ‘The longer or later we nap, the greater the chances that it may prevent us from going to sleep at a decent hour at night,’ Dr. Pervez says. Napping for longer periods can also cause sleep inertia (a state of feeling groggy and disoriented when awakening from a deep sleep) which may interfere with functioning in the period immediately following the nap.
It is also important to remember that while short naps may be beneficial for some individuals, excessive napping may be a sign of serious medical conditions like sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Establishing consistency in your sleep habits is key to a healthy lifestyle. Both sleep deprivation and excessive sleepiness can have serious health consequences.
The recommended amount of sleep at night depends on a person’s age. For example, adults between the ages of 26 and 64 should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. View the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended sleep times chart for more details.
4. What kind of environment should we nap in?
Protect your time and environment; sleep in a dark and quiet area. Resting in a tranquil and dark room will increase your chances of falling asleep faster. Powerful sources of light in a room can have an impact on the quality of your sleep.
Light and darkness are strong signals that let your body know it’s time to rest. Your brain continues to process sounds while you’re sleeping. Noise can interrupt your dozing, leading you to wake up and shift between stages of sleep.
Learn more about our sleep services offered at the REX Sleep Disorders Center. Plus, find out if you’re at risk of a sleep disorder by taking our Sleep Aware health assessment.