Napping: Medicine for the Weary

Busy lives can affect our ability to sleep a full 8 hours at night—or even sleep at all. So how do you catch up? If you are lucky, maybe you can recover some sleep with a quick nap.

The Benefits of Napping

Our bodies run on something called circadian rhythm (biological clock). Most times during the day, our bodies and minds are alert. Other times however, alertness fades and our biological clock prepares our bodies for sleep. When this happens, you may feel tired. It happens at night, and in most adults, in the early afternoon.

Taking a nap for 20 to 30 minutes can improve:

  • Alertness
  • Logical reasoning
  • Reaction time
  • Energy level

Napping may also have long term benefits for the heart.

Timing is everything

What is the best time to nap? Pay attention to your body’s clock. Early afternoon may be a good time, if you are tired. However, naps later in the day can sometimes cause more tiredness and keep you awake at night.

Most experts say a nap less than 30 minutes will improve alertness. Anything longer can put you into deeper sleep. Deeper sleep can make you feel groggy for the rest of the day.

Listen to your body and rest when needed. This is very important if you are doing something that demands your full attention like driving.

Workplace Napping

What if you feel drowsy at work? Should you take a quick nap? Many fear napping a sign of laziness or lack of ambition. However, napping can:

  • Make people more productive
  • Help people's brains more quickly sort out important information from things that can be ignored
  • Improve productivity and memory.

Some companies now have "nap rooms" where employees can recharge. Shift work, especially in the evening, can lead to tiredness and work problems.

Napping before work and caffeine at work can help improve alertness and performance.

Tips for Successful Napping

Now you know what a nap can do for you, here are some napping tips:

  • Let yourself take a nap. Do not feel guilty.
  • Remember that naps can improve performance, mood, and health.
  • Avoid caffeine after your morning coffee.
  • Go to a cool, dark, quiet space. This will help you fall asleep and wake up faster.
  • Use an alarm clock or timer.
  • Nap at the same time every day.

Napping and Sleep Disorders

Napping can mask other problems. If you are napping too much, contact your doctor. Here are some things that can cause daytime sleepiness:

Keep in mind this does not mean there is a problem. Just be aware of the possibilities, especially in older adults.

Lack of sleep causes many problems. Examples are accidents, lower work productivity, and tiredness. Make sure you are getting enough rest. If not, consider a quick nap to boost your energy.

RESOURCES:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
National Sleep Foundation
https://sleepfoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Sleep Society
https://css-scs.ca
The Lung Association
http://www.lung.ca

References:

Classification of sleep disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/classification-of-sleep-disorders. Accessed October 11, 2021
Gottlieb DJ, Ellenbogen JM. Sleep deficiency and motor vehicle crash risk in the general population: a prospective cohort study. BMC Med. 2018;16(1):44.
Häusler N, Haba-Rubio J, et al. Association of napping with incident cardiovascular events in a prospective cohort study. Heart. 2019;105(23):1793-1798.
Napping. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/napping. Accessed October 11, 2021.
Last reviewed October 11, 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/11/2021

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