Are Naps OK?
When Naps Call: Should Your Indulge?
Think napping is just for lazy vacation days or a cozy weekend in fall? Think again. Napping on the regular can have some real benefits, boosting your energy, productivity, memory, and mood.
But all naps are not created equal. Make sure you know when to nap and when to pass.
Who Should Nap
Here’s the deal. Naps are great for some people and not for others.
Bottom line: if you sleep well at night, a short nap during the day can be a great boost.
Our circadian rhythm – your body’s natural clock – has ups and downs during the 24-hour cycle. Most people feel an afternoon dip in energy that can make you feel sleepy. And that afternoon lull can become more noticeable as you age.
Even if you’re getting enough sleep at night, the right kind of nap can give you a great boost. That’s because, as we age, it’s harder to keep going on all cylinders all day.
But how can you tell if napping is right for you?
When Is It OK To Take A Nap?
In general, if you rest easy at night, you can benefit from the right nap, in the right place, at the right time. If you fall into one of these three categories, chances are, naps are a good choice:
- You get enough sleep at night – usually between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep.
- You don’t have problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night.
- You have significant afternoon fatigue or sleepiness.
Tips For Getting The Most Out Of A Nap
Keep it short. Start with just 20 to 30 minutes. Napping too long can interfere with your body’s ability to get good sleep at night.
Earlier the better. Try to take naps in the early afternoon, ideally sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. Napping too late in the afternoon can interfere with your body’s need for nighttime sleep. Try not to nap after 4 p.m.
Nap outside the bedroom. Since your brain associates your bed and bedroom with lengthy, overnight sleep, opt for naps in a different spot – a couch, cot, chair, or hammock.
Alternatives To Naps
If you have insomnia or problems falling or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Napping lessens sleep pressure, which along with your circadian rhythm, helps you know when to sleep and controls when you feel sleepy.
If you find that napping creates problems with getting to sleep or staying asleep at night, take it as a sign to pass on the power nap. Good quality nighttime sleep is more important.
Bottom line: If you are struggling with insomnia, stop napping and see your doctor.
If napping isn’t a good fit for you but you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, use other tricks to save up your sleep for nighttime. Befriend motion and light. Be more active outdoors – change your posture, get out in the sunlight, or go for a walk.
And One More Thing
Whether or not napping is right for you, don’t nap to “catch up” after a poor night of sleep. The key to setting things straight is staying awake the next day to build up your sleep pressure and give you the greatest chance of a more normal night of rest.
Bottom Line: Napping isn’t a replacement for nighttime sleep. Be careful not to substitute a nap in an attempt to make up for the nighttime sleep you’ve missed.