Is Napping Bad for You?
We’ve all had naps at some point during our lives. It is not only children that are used to napping, but amongst adults, it’s more common than one might think. However, is napping worth it? There is no simple (nor unambiguous) answer, but depending on the situation and the timing, napping can be either beneficial or not.
The benefits of napping
Are you often yawning after lunchtime? In the afternoon, the alertness level has a natural and temporary dip, and it is amplified by a meal hanging out in the stomach. A short power nap after lunch might help to beat the drowsiness and to increase your concentration levels. However, the nap time can’t be too long. If you have the time to fall asleep and drift to a deeper sleep stage, you might wake up even more tired and on top of that, groggy. The recommended time for an optimal and refreshing nap is no more than 20 minutes. During that time, sleep pressure has time to lower to make you feel more refreshed, but you don’t fall asleep entirely, which would make you tired.
The cons of napping
You can help your efficiency by napping, but it comes with a cost. Sleeping during the day decreases Sleep Pressure, with a cost of mixing your day-night rhythm thoroughly. Especially taking long naps causes issues, often making it harder to fall asleep during night time when it is time go to bed. Regular long naps come with an effect of problems falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the night.
Is it worth it to take naps?
The pros and cons of napping are highly individual, but for most healthy individuals, taking a maximum of 20 minutes nap once a day is most likely non-harmful. However, if you nap too late in the afternoon or the early evening, it will be most likely disrupting your nightly sleep. Unless you need to drive a car or conclude some other tasks that require a high level of concentration, it would be ill-advised to nap after the early afternoon.
The slight decrease in alertness in the early afternoon usually passes by on its own, even if you’re not compensating the slight drowsiness with a nap or a cup of caffeinated drinks. If you feel sleepy the whole afternoon, it is often a sign of sleep deprivation. In that case, napping is not the best solution. If you are trying to compensate sleep deprivation with long naps during the day, it can create a vicious circle of not getting enough sleep the next night and so on, messing your day-night rhythm even more. In that case, we highly recommend getting on top of the reasons of not sleeping enough during the night and solving those problems first.
Example Habits to try:
Hays, J. C., Blazer, D. G., & Foley, D. J. (1996). Risk of napping: Excessive daytime sleepiness and mortality in an older community population. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 44(6), 693–698.
Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18(2), 272–281.