For parents and kids all over the USA, Summer is over because the school year has begun. That means back to the grind of making lunches, driving to dance class, football practice or piano lessons. During a long week of schedules, school, and work, sometimes crawling under the sheets for a nice nap rounds out a long week.
If you look forward to your own naps, you are not alone. Physicist Albert Einstein napped each day even after a full night sleep. Eleanor Roosevelt napped prior to speaking engagements while her husband President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in office. She believed it would boost her energy. Winston Churchill’s afternoon nap was nonnegotiable. Churchill thought the nap rejuvenated his day helping him get twice the work accomplished.
For some companies, nap rooms are being added for tired employees. Yes, nap rooms, in hopes of boosting productivity in the after-lunch drowsiness of the day.
Starting with the question of “why am I napping?” is a good place to start. Napping because you cannot survive a day without normally means an unhealthy amount of sleep at night. It can also mean an underlying health condition.
The Mayo Clinic defines the following as healthy napping for adults:
- Reduced fatigue
- Increased alertness
- Improved mood
- Improved performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory
According to a 2009 report by the Pew Research Center, a third of U.S. adults nap on any given day. Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness 100 percent.
One of the biggest napping hurdle is the stigma. Many believe napping is only for those who are lazy or who do not sleep enough at night. But for many, it is recharge for the rest of the day.
Keeping the nap short is key. Up to 30 minutes is plenty of time to recharge your energy. The longer you nap, the more irritable and groggy you will feel after.
Everyone has differing sleep patterns with waking up and bedtimes, but naps are best in the afternoon around 2 p.m. with 3 p.m. indicated as the latest time. At this time, you will have lunch on your stomach and will experience a lower level of alertness. This time of day creates the least among of issues with night time slumber.
But there is also a benefit towards taking a 90 minute nap. The 90 minutes completes one sleep cycle from the body’s lightest to deepest stage of sleep. You are more likely to wake up refreshed and has been known to boost memory, alertness, and creativity.
The 30 minute nap? Avoid it at all costs. This stint of time creates sleep inertia that causes a prolonged state of grogginess up to 30 minutes after the nap is complete.
If you are especially sleepy after lunch, try taking a walk. By moving your body and allowing your blood to flow, you gain energy. And when at work, a nap is typically not a possibility, walking is a good alternative.
For those who plan to nap, find a place with fewer distractions for a healthier, fuller nap. Napping in a living room with a loud television or kids who may interrupt the nap can have an adverse effect. On the same token, all naps are not planned.
The circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, is at a lower level of alertness around the afternoon hours. The longer you stay awake, the sleepier you will become or sleep drive. To balance, the circadian rhythm keeps you alert and awake when needed. For some individuals who wake up early in the morning, a short nap helps curve the building sleepiness. A 10 to 30 minute nap then helps energize your internal clock until bedtime.
For people who don't catch enough Zs during the night, daytime naps can improve alertness and motor performance. "Everybody agrees that if you are sleep deprived, you can't learn, perform or think very well," says Jerome Siegel, PhD, director of the Center for Sleep Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The balance is understanding why you tend to nap habitually or frequently due to a sudden life change.
Two of the most popular reasons that healthy napping is recommended is for stress and moodiness. If you are changing shifts at work or experiencing a loss of a pet or family member, a nap can help lower your anxiety. You may have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Good news! A nap can help improve your mood. Even 10 minutes can affect your attitude.
On the flip side, habitual napping can lead adults into depression. Unlike children who nap everyday at 2 p.m. due to the need for metabolism and growth, adults who nap daily are more likely to be depressed. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide (6.7% of the U.S. population suffer with 15 million cases).
According to Harvard Medical School, a variety of studies indicate that between 65 to 90 percent of adult patients with major depression experience some type of sleep problem.
If napping is becoming more common due to what you believe is a health condition, talk to your family doctor. In the meantime, take the CNN Health Quiz: The science of sleep to determine how much you know about healthy sleeping.
If you would like to speak to a sleep specialist about benefits you can receive from napping, or if you believe you have a more serious sleep disorder, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free consultation.