Humans are one of the few species of mammals who are monophasic sleepers. This means that the days are divided into two specific periods for sleep and being awake. However, it is unclear whether this is the natural sleep pattern for mankind. For instance, young children and the elderly nap frequently, and napping is an important aspect of many cultures.
In our 24-hour society, Americans are becoming more sleep deprived all the time. Whether or not it’s our busy lifestyle that keeps us from adequate rest, there are ways we can incorporate naps to get better sleep. Naps do not necessarily ‘make up’ for poor or inadequate nighttime sleep, but a short nap can help improve mood, alertness, and performance.
Naps are divided into three different categories:
- Planned napping involves taking a nap before actually feeling sleepy. This technique may be useful if you know you will be up later than your normal bedtime or as a way to be able to stay awake later than usual.
- Emergency napping occurs during sudden sleepiness when you cannot continue engaging in a particular activity. This type of nap is useful for drowsy drivers or while operating heavy machinery.
- Habitual napping is when a person naps at a set time every day, such as young children who may sleep at about the same time every afternoon. Some adults take short naps after lunch every day, especially in numerous European and Asian cultures.
- Short naps between 20-30 minutes are useful for short-term alertness. To help you wake up, set an alarm. This kind of nap is valuable for improved alertness and performance and won’t leave you feeling groggy upon awakening. Studies have also shown that it won’t delay the onset of falling asleep at night.
- Make sure that your surroundings are conducive to sleep, and that the area where you sleep is restful and the temperature is comfortable. By using an eye mask or ear plugs, you can limit the noise and light in the room and you’ll be able to fall asleep more easily. Some studies have shown that it is beneficial just to spend time relaxing in bed without sleeping, as well.
- Taking naps too late in the day might impact your ability to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. There is also a possibility that napping too early in the day may mean your body isn’t ready for more sleep.
- Naps improve alertness, performance, and reduce mistakes or accidents.
- By taking short naps, you can increase your alertness immediately following the nap and extend your level of alertness to later in the day.
- Scheduled napping is prescribed for narcolepsy patients.
- The psychological benefits of napping include relaxing and rejuvenating aspects, as well.
Driving drowsy is extremely dangerous, yet many drivers do so, despite the risks. This can put the driver and others on the road in serious danger. Getting a full night’s rest before driving is ideal, yet taking a short nap before driving or during a break can reduce the risk of having an accident. Drinking a caffeinated beverage after a short nap can boost your alertness even further, too.
Shift workers may be subject to odd hours that deviate from the typical 9 to 5 schedule. Being alert, especially at night, can be challenging even if you’ve had enough daytime sleep - it can lead to fatigue and reduced productivity. Shift workers may benefit from taking short naps before work or during breaks.
Negative Effects of Napping
While napping can be beneficial for a quick boost in alertness and performance, naps aren’t the best option for everyone. Some people may have trouble sleeping in places other than their own bed, which would make dozing off at the office or car unlikely. It may also be difficult for a person to sleep during the day. Some other negative effects include:
- Known as ‘sleep inertia’, naps may lead to feelings of grogginess and disorientation if they last longer than 20 minutes due to awakening from deeper phases of sleep. Even though this state usually only lasts for a few minutes, it can be detrimental if you need to perform a task immediately after waking up. Post-nap impairment is especially pronounced for those who are severely sleep deprived and nap for longer periods of time.
- Napping can hinder your ability to get enough sleep at night. A long nap or a nap in the later afternoon or evening may affect both the length and quality of nighttime sleep. For those who have trouble sleeping at night and have taken a nap will be likely to have even more difficulty falling asleep.
- Some research has suggested that napping is associated with increased risk of heart failure for those already at risk.
Napping may be beneficial to relieve sleepiness, but it also has some stigmas attached to it. Some think that napping indicates laziness, or it is only appropriate for young children, the sick, or elderly. Research has shown that these statements are unfounded and do not take into account the benefits of naps for reducing sleepiness and improving cognitive performance.
Keep in mind that getting adequate nighttime sleep is the best way to feel alert and improve productivity. Naps are a good supplement to healthy sleep hygiene and can help improve mental and physical stamina.
If you are interested in finding out more about napping and sleeping habits, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563 and one of our representatives will be happy to answer any of your questions.