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We are all familiar with the nap. Coming home after a long day at work or school, lying down on the couch for “just one minute,” and before you know it you have drifted off into a pleasant sleep. A few hours later, you wake up to find that the day is over, you missed dinner, and it is dark out. Some people swear by taking a nap every day. Some argue that it ruins their circadian rhythm and they can not get back to sleep when night falls. No matter what side you fall on, there is some genuine concern around nap taking. Does it keep you well rested, or intrude on your sleep schedule? 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, an expert on the subject of napping and all things sleep, naps tend to benefit the takers. In addition to exploring the question of benefits, they offer some compelling nap statistics. Apparently, one third of U.S. adults nap daily. Men are more likely to nap than women.

What are the benefits of napping?

Napping is linked to many positive effects. One common factor is relieving the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Unsurprisingly, sleeping more throughout the day helps many people overcome the deficit in their sleeping patterns. This can be brought about by waking up in the middle of a deep sleep, sleeping poorly, or just not sleeping enough. Common symptoms include cloudy thinking, increased stress, and low alertness and attention. By clearing these up, you can make the most of your awake hours by being alert. 

How should I nap to maximize the benefits?

Before we can really get into this question, it is important to understand the basics of sleep. There are multiple types of sleep to define. Firstly, resting sleep. This term refers to the light sleep that happens right when you first fall asleep. It is easy to slip in and out of without trouble, but has many reenergizing benefits. The next most intense type of sleep is slow wave sleep. This kind of sleep is a happy medium. You can wake up pretty easily, but still get good rest for longer periods of time. Finally, deep wave sleep. This is the pillow-marks-on-your-face kind of heavy sleep that you never want to leave. Deep wave sleep is the most recharging, but it takes the longest to get in and out of. When we sleep at night, our bodies cycle through these phases of sleep. That is why there are some times when waking up feels impossible, and other times that the sun wakes you up naturally to have an energized morning. You can use these kinds of sleep to hack your best naps.

Researchers claim that the best length of nap is around 20 minutes. This sweet spot lets your body rest and recharge in between activities without allowing you to enter deeper sleep. 20 minutes keeps you in the resting zone, which prevents you from feeling groggy and allows you to easily rise at any time. If you need a longer rest, commit to a 60 or 90 minute time frame. Anything in between runs the risk of waking you up in the middle of deep sleep, which can set the rest of your day off kilter.

Whether you prefer naps because they make you feel better or you hate naps because they make you stay up later, there is no denying that there are some real benefits. Taking a nap can be the easiest thing in the world. When you feel your eyes start to sag, set a 20 minute timer, and you can be recharged for the rest of the day.