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Health Benefits of Napping: What Are They?

It's no secret that daytime napping, especially in the mid-afternoons, can help you focus on your daily work. According to a journal by the national sleep foundation, about a third of US healthy adults nap daily. Plus, the number of men fond of taking power naps exceeds women's. 

Multiple study pieces of research also indicate that a mid-afternoon short nap has tremendous benefits such as; improving work performance, boosting memory, ease stress, among others. So, if you want to understand how you can benefit from taking afternoon power naps, then this article is for you.

Common Types of Naps

Before jumping into the benefits of regular frequent naps, it's crucial to know the common types of naps. These naps are typically categorized according to the purpose they serve. These types of naps are; 

Appetitive Nap

Shorter naps that last less than half an hour are suitable for individuals without sleep deprivation. Such types of naps are referred to as appetitive naps. A recent popular study indicates that people who took shorter naps lasting less than 20 minutes felt less tired and experienced a significant increase in their work performance.

Essential Naps

These are usually naps taken during illnesses. Essentially, it's a mechanism through which the body mounts a response to fight the infection causing the disease. That's why sick people tend to sleep frequently. 

Prophylactic Nap

If you want to prepare for a sleep loss, then this nap is the best choice for that purpose. For instance, individuals who are night shift workers can schedule their naps before and even during their working hours to stay alert during their shifts and prevent sleepiness.

Health Benefits of Napping

As previously mentioned, napping has multiple health benefits. Some individuals with sleep disorders may have scheduled naps during the day as a treatment plan. Also, if you're a healthy sleeper, the benefits you'll rip from a midday snooze include; 

Memory Boost 

A 20-minute power nap might be the right dose of sleep, especially when trying to learn something new. According to some scientists, individuals who learn something new tend to remember what they've learned better after a nap.

Another study also found that a one-hour-long nap can help you remember new information than those who cram before a test or those who take a break from studying. 

Helps Improve Nighttime Sleep 

Though a bit illogical, naps during daylight can help older adults achieve a good night's sleep. Studies indicate that naps taken between 1.00 pm and 3.00 pm in conjunction with minimal exercise such as stretching or walking in the evening can help you sleep better at night, improving your sleep quality. Moreover, this will also improve both your physical and mental health as a whole. 

Improvement of Work Performance 

Suppose you feel sleepy at work because you slept late; a short nap can go a long way in shifting your alertness back on track. However, you don't necessarily have to be sleep-deprived to consider a quick lie-down a viable solution. Numerous researches have found short naps to increase logical reasoning levels and alertness and speed up reaction time. 

Boosts Immunity 

Like regular night sleep, a nap can also help boost your immunity aside from general hygiene practices. Sleep deprivation promotes the increased release of pro-inflammatory markers that cause immunodeficiency. However, napping in the day for an extended number of days can help improve immune system components such as cellular functions. 

A study conducted in 2015 involving 12 men required them to sleep for 2 hours only at night and take half an hour nap the following day. Surprisingly, they got a full night's rest. The 30-minute nap helped reduce inflammatory cytokines levels and chemical that controls immunity, i.e., Norepinephrine.  

Improved Cognition

After a power nap, you feel more alert, plus your brain functions more efficiently. According to scientists, short daytime naps promote the reduction of adenosine (a neurotransmitter responsible for making you sleep and cognitive performance) levels in your brain. 

While effects of brief naps of 5 to 15 minutes last up to 3 hours, longer naps lasting more than 30 minutes can reduce impairment from sleep inertia. However, this only lasts for a short period after waking up, but the effects of improved cognitive performance last for many hours.   

How Long Should You Take a Nap 

Many sleep research, including the national sleep foundation, indicates that 20 minutes should suffice. With that short power nap, your body should feel fully rested without deep stages of sleep.

Suppose you need a longer napping period; a 60 to 90-minute nap should be enough time for deep slow-wave sleep. But ensure your sleep ends up in the lighter stages to feel more active when you wake up. 

It would be best to avoid medium-length naps that last about 45 minutes which might make you wake up during slow-wave sleep, i.e., the deepest sleep stage, which will most likely leave you with a groggy feeling called sleep inertia after you've woken up. 

Some researchers propose that napping for about 30 minutes is equally beneficial as power naps lasting between 15 and 20 minutes —usually taken in the late afternoons. Individuals who fall under this category have a sharper memory and superior cognition overall than those who take longer naps and those that don't nap at all.

The Best Way to Take Daytime Naps — Avoid Sleep Inertia

Getting down for a quick nap is one thing. Ensuring you're getting the most out of your daily naps is something else. The following tips should point in the right direction; 

  • Napping in the early afternoons: you might interfere with your night's sleep if you nap past 3.00 pm. Crucial factors that determine the best napping time during the day are; age, Medication, sleeping schedule, etc.
  • Nap in a restful environment: ensure your napping environment is comfortable with few distractions, dark, and favorable room temperature. 
  • Maintain short naps: when napping, 10 to 20 minutes should be enough. If you nap longer, you risk feeling groggy when you wake up. On the other, young adults can tolerate much longer naps.
  • Constant Practice: figuring out what works for you might be challenging, so try experimenting with different; times of the day, nap duration, and ways of waking up. Alternatively, you could use sleep tracking apps like sleep cycle (wakes you up from light sleep) or warmly (wakes you up slowly).
  • Avoid sleeping longer: if you sleep longer, you risk experiencing sleep inertia. But having a cup of coffee before your 15-20 minutes power nap will leave you with more energy when you wake up.   

Bottom Line

Apart from improving cognition, naps improve mental health as a whole, in turn making you productive at work. If you desire a nap that will leave you feeling more energized and active, then maintain a nap length between 20 and 30 minutes. However, you can extend up to 90 minutes only if you're feeling sleep-deprived. 

If you have a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea, see a health professional. For those who can't identify sleep disorders, frequent daytime fatigue is one of the primary signs. It's not recommended for people with insomnia to take naps unless when operating heavy machinery or activity requiring wakefulness. Also, you should use sleep medicine if you have trouble falling asleep only when prescribed by a professional sleep specialist. 

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