Napping is something that most of us associate with the elderly or the very young. You nap when you’re a baby, you nap when you’re a student and then you nap when you’re over 80. In between those times however, napping is generally regarded as lazy and/or something we simply don’t have time for. There’s plenty of time for sleep when you’re dead, right?
But perhaps it’s time that we reassessed our views on napping. As it turns out, napping may just provide an ideal way for us to boost our energy levels and improve our health. You know you’ve always wanted to be able to hit the hay during the day and now you have the perfect excuse…
Health Benefits of Napping
Sleep is incredibly important for us and many studies have demonstrated just how badly we fare when we don’t get any. In fact there’s actually a condition called ‘fatal familial insomnia’ that demonstrates how a lack of sleep eventually results in death.
Now most of us are in no immediate danger of dying due to a lack of sleep, but we may still be operating sub-optimally due to a lack of quality sleep without even realising it.
In one study comparing nappers with non-nappers over a six-year period (and accounting for all the other factors you would expect), it was discovered that napping can reduce your chances of fatal heart problems by 37%.
Another study conducted in 2008 demonstrated how napping can improve memory. In this study, volunteers were asked to memorise lists and then in some cases were given the opportunity to nap. Those who napped were able to perform better than those who didn’t when tested subsequently – with even a short six minute nap being sufficient to significantly improve performance (though longer nappers fared even better).
Research conducted by NASA only further supports the idea that napping is good for us – showing that a 25 minute nap alone is enough to boost focus and alertness by 35%. Other studies have demonstrated how napping boosts mood too – but then you already knew that.
More Support for Napping
What you should be taking from this is that you currently are operating at a sub-optimal level. If you were to nap just once a day you would probably be able to boost your mood, your focus, your energy and your health.
Now you might be thinking that this all sounds a little unnatural – no one else naps and you never have before, so how can it be a good thing?
In that case it’s important to remember that actually napping is very natural. All animals nap, and if you own either a cat or a dog then you will be aware of this fact first hand. Likewise if you look to warmer (and more laid back) countries like Spain or Greece you’ll find that the locals take siestas – lunch-time naps that have been shown to improve health and that are responsible for the far more lively nightlife.
While there are many benefits to napping, in the interests of balance it’s important that we also look at some of the possible negative aspects.
For instance, while napping can sometimes help you to wake up feeling wide awake and refreshed, it can also have the opposite effect if you end up suffering with ‘sleep inertia’. Sleep inertia is when you wake up feeling groggy or struggle to rouse yourself at all. In some cases this can end up having the precise opposite effect that you were hoping for.
Another possible downside is that it can make it more difficult for you to then sleep later on in the day if you overdo it – and this can potentially cause mild insomnia.
Note though that these downsides mainly occur when you get napping wrong. If you don’t nap for too long and if you time it correctly, then you will find you often wake up feeling much better.
Even if you don’t adopt napping as a permanent habit, you could consider using napping as a tool to boost performance and reinvigorate yourself as and when you need it. Had a poor night’s sleep? Studies show that getting even one hour less sleep a night can make you less focussed and alert, so consider using naps as a way to recover from those, or as a way to prep for a big day ahead.