There’s been a lot of back and forth about napping over the years… it is good for productivity, it can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm; naps can make you more alert, naps can make you feel groggy. So what are we to make of all of this information?
Well, the truth is that there are different types of naps and different ways it can affect people.
When can a nap help?
If you are working swing shifts or you have no other choice but to stay up late every once in a while, a nap can help you remain awake and alert. Try to keep the nap between twenty to ninety minutes to give your brain a little time to reboot without waking up groggy. This can help your reflexes if you’re driving or operating heavy machinery.
There are also some people who naturally function better with a little daytime shut-eye. If you are one of these people, a short nap can be more beneficial than a third cup of coffee or a sugary energy drink.
What types of naps are bad for you?
In some cases, a chronic desire to nap can be linked to underlying issues. If you cannot make it through the day without feeling the need to nap, ask yourself if you are getting enough sleep during the night. Perhaps you cannot fall asleep due to insomnia or you wake up in the middle of the night due to back pain. If you think this may be the case, consult a doctor and consider whether your mattress is to blame. An old, uncomfortable mattress could be the source of chronic pain or sleep disturbance.
Naps longer than ninety minutes can also be detrimental to your health. These naps are long enough that they can make it difficult to fall asleep at night and stick to a bedtime. Also, ninety minutes is the approximate length of your first sleep cycle. After that, your body will begin another cycle and fall into a deep sleep. While this is a good thing at night, it is not good for this deep sleep to be interrupted. Doing so will cause the achy, groggy feeling that is sometimes associated with naps.
In summary, naps can certainly be beneficial under the right circumstances. A short nap can help you make it through long days and boost your energy. However, if you are chronically exhausted because you aren’t sleeping enough at night, getting better sleep should be your first priority.