Are Naps Actually Good For You?

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Some people swear by a daytime nap, while others try to avoid napping at all costs. So what’s the deal? Is a nap during the day helping or hurting you? Turns out there’s no easy answer, but napping is pretty common.

The 2011 Sleep in America® poll found that 63 percent of Americans say their sleep needs aren’t being met during the week, and they counter their tiredness with caffeine and naps. And a 2009 Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey found that 34 percent of Americans take a nap on a typical day.

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any medical information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]

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According to The National Sleep Foundation, there are three types of naps:

  • There’s a planned nap, which you plan in advance to help yourself stay up later than you normally would — for example napping before a long drive, or ahead of a party.
  • There’s an emergency nap when you suddenly feel tired and need to rest so you can carry on with your day, or complete a task that requires alertness.
  • Then there is a habitual nap, which is when you take a nap at the same time every day (one example is that children and elderly people often take habitual naps).

The Foundation notes: “Nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap.”

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you avoid napping if you have insomnia or sleep poorly at night, because napping may worsen these issues.

They also recommend sticking to three nap rules:

  • Firstly, create a restful environment for your nap that is quiet, dark, and comfortable. Try to block out any distracting noises, and ensure the temperature in the room is comfortable.
  • Secondly, nap during the afternoon. The clinic notes that many people experience an energy “slump” around 2 or 3 p.m., making that an ideal time to nap — late afternoon or evening naps are likely to affect your nighttime sleep.
  • Finally, try to sleep for just 10 to 30 minutes. “The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward,” the site explains.

Research has shown that napping can benefit memory and learning. In fact, companies like Google, Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, and Zappos have introduced nap pods or dedicated napping rooms, encouraging their employees to catch a few Z’s during the workday in order to boost productivity and creativity.

As for the downsides to napping, one major concern is that daytime sleep will interrupt nighttime sleep. And the American Psychological Association (APA) mentions that daytime sleep has been linked with higher levels of C-reactive protein, “a marker for systemic inflammation (which has been linked to a host of ills, including cancer, diabetes, depression and heart disease).”

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However, they stress that research is far from definitive: “Various studies in various populations have found that too much sleep, too little sleep, frequent naps and infrequent naps can all be linked to elevated C-reactive protein. Ultimately, more work needs to be done to understand what patterns of nighttime and daytime sleep are healthy, and for whom.”

The bottom line, napping is perfectly normal and probably nothing to be concerned about. If you generally don’t nap during the day but suddenly find yourself experiencing extreme daytime fatigue, mention that to your doctor just in case.

“Sleep is a behavior, and human behavior is highly adaptable,” Kimberly A. Cote, PhD, a psychology professor at Brock University in Ontario, told the American Psychological Association in 2016. “We get sleep in many ways. After a certain age, naps are not biologically necessary, but napping does have benefits.”

 

Featured image: Maksym Povozniuk/Shutterstock

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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.