The Health Benefits of Napping
Who doesn't like taking a quick nap in the afternoon? There is nothing wrong with taking a quick snooze in order to feel refreshed enough to finish out the day strong. These brief rests are so popular that in some countries, naps are built into the workday as siestas. So, what are the benefits of regular naps, and are you doing them right?
Are Naps Beneficial?
Many of the benefits to naps are mental. A quick nap can reduce or even banish afternoon grogginess, poor concentration, and lack of focus. They can also make you more alert, learn faster, think more clearly, and remember better. They can also give you a natural mood boost, who doesn’t love to feel happier?
Napping also has physical benefits. It can improve your balance and coordination, which is a huge plus if you tend to be on the clumsy side. You may have faster reflexes and more energy. Naps also have longer-term benefits as well; For example, evidence suggests that they can lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system. Best of all, they may even help with your waistline since chronic exhaustion can lead to hunger and overeating. Who doesn’t love getting more sleep as well as watching the pounds drop? It’s the best of both worlds!
When Should I Nap During the Day?
To figure out which kind of nap is right for you, you'll need to understand a little bit more about your body's sleep cycle. Your sleep cycle has several stages. During the first stage you'll begin to feel drowsy but could be easily woken up, which could become time consuming if you live in a louder environment. Next would be sage 2, which would turn into a deep, dreamless sleep, also known as Non-REM sleep. Finally, there is the rapid eye movement stage accompanied by dreams, also known as REM sleep. This is when you would achieve your deepest sleep. This entire cycle takes 90-120 minutes and repeats as you sleep.
After learning about how your body works during its sleep cycle, it is key to pick the right time for your naps for optimal rest. Researchers suggest that you should schedule your nap in before 3PM, because if you have a nap after then you would increase your risk of intervening with your nighttime sleep cycle. The best time to take a nap would be after lunch, so you are able to rest your body before tackling the second half of the day’s activities.
How Long Should I Nap?
Depending on the length of the nap you chose, will how it will affect your body overall. A ten minute 'cat nap' may not allow your body enough time to get to sleep. However, very short naps do offer some benefits and won't make you groggy. Meanwhile, if you decide to nap for an hour you may be woken up in the middle of a dream cycle. That would mean that you're likely to feel groggy and disoriented. All in all, it is important to know the different lengths of naps so you can choose the right one for you. Here are the general kinds of naps:
5-10 minutes: Cat naps allow you to make use of a few stolen minutes in a busy day. You won't fall asleep, but you may find relief from stress. You don't even have to lay down here. Simply sitting down in a quiet room can reduce stress and improve concentration.
15-30 minutes: Efficient naps like these allow you to get to the edge of sleep and get some of the benefits of a deeper rest. These benefits can include increased alertness, reduced fatigue, and improved mood. If you have a physically demanding job or one that takes a lot of attention, you may want to break up the workday with one of these naps.
About 1 hour: If you know that you take a long time to fall asleep, naps of this length can be just as functional! However, this can be risky. If you fall asleep too quickly, you could interrupt your dream cycle and wake up feeling worse than you had before.
1.5-3 hours: This length of nap verges on traditional sleep. You'll have enough time for a full sleep cycle and wake up naturally, feeling greatly refreshed. However, naps at this length can affect your nighttime sleep, so be sure to use them sparingly.
Napping the Right Way
Are you getting the most out of your naps? Here are a few tips:
- Nap in the early afternoon, ideally before 3 PM, or you may affect your nighttime sleep cycles.
- Rest in a cool, dark, quiet place if at all possible.
- Wear comfortable clothes, and of course, take off your shoes.
- Turn off electronic distractions, put your phone on silent, etc.
- Tell family members and co-workers not to disturb you.
- If you can't fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time, don't get frustrated. Just continue with your day and try again later.
- Give yourself a few minutes to wake up before jumping back into work. Get the blood flowing by doing a couple stretches and walking around for a few minutes.
- Experiment with napping for different lengths of time. This lets you find out which one works best for you!
How Often Should I Nap – Daily, Weekly, Only as Needed?
The answer to this question depends on the kind of napping you do. If you regularly take long naps of 90 minutes or more, they could interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. This is especially true if you nap late in the afternoon after 3 PM. On the other hand, many highly successful people in demanding positions take a quick 10 to 20-minute nap every day. Short naps are unlikely to disrupt your sleep cycles and leave you feeling more rested. To summarize it, less is more.
What if you already have disrupted your nighttime sleep? If you're a new parent or if your job stretches to late in the evening, you may be getting only a few hours of sleep a night anyway. In these cases, a longer nap in the middle of the day could really help you get the hours of daily rest that your body needs. It is helpful to have your body get used to a nap routine, so you can make sure you feel rested on a constant basis. Even if it is for 10 minutes, it will still make a significant impact on your overall health, both physically and mentally.
Stages of Sleep - https://www.tuck.com/stages/