Is a daytime snooze the way forward?
It’s a familiar situation to most of us. You reach a lull in the day and think, I could do with a nap.
But opinions on napping are contradictory. While some people find napping essential to boosting their energy levels and productivity, others claim it makes them feel even groggier than simply powering through.
There is some evidence to suggest that napping can be beneficial, especially when compared with simply putting up with sleep deprivation. However, this begs the question: how long should you nap for?
The perfect nap is difficult to define, as it depends on a variety of factors. We’re going to take a closer look at the potential effects of napping, and the impact factors like length of the nap and age of the napper have.
20 minutes? 90 minutes? The reports vary
According to the National Sleep Foundation, just 20 minutes is all you need to enjoy improved alertness, enhanced performance and a better mood. Any longer, they say, and you risk feeling groggier because you’ll have reached the deeper stages of sleep.
However, one study published by Forbes claimed that 90 minutes was the ideal length of time for a nap, suggesting that sleeping for longer is the best way forward.
These results don’t necessarily contradict each other, however. It’s all about sleep cycles. While 20 minutes forces you to wake up before you reach deep sleep, 90 minutes allows you to complete one full cycle of sleep, meaning you enter deep sleep and return to lighter sleep before waking up.
So if you have the time, a 90-minute nap could be the best option.
Age is a factor
Of course, not everyone will experience napping in the same way, and age has a huge role to play in just how much sleep you need both at night and during the day.
For example, babies and young children require far more sleep than adults, with newborns taking frequent naps throughout the day and totting up an average of 18 hours sleep per 24-hour cycle. As we age, our need for sleep tends to get smaller, until we reach the stage of older adulthood.
One study published in Sleep Medicine Clinics journal in 2018 found that, as well as many physiological alterations which take place as we age, our sleep patterns also change. Age-related changes in sleep included advanced sleep timing, shortened night-time sleep duration and an increased frequency of daytime naps.
Is napping good for you?
Some people claim that napping should be avoided anyway, so there is no such thing as the ‘perfect nap’. There is some truth to this. In an ideal world, where we all achieve the recommended 7-9 hours of high quality sleep per night, there would be no need to nap.
However, when it becomes a choice between napping and sleep deprivation, there are benefits to catching 40 winks during the day.
According to the National Sleep Foundation and the National Institute of Health, there are seven key benefits to napping in the early afternoon. These are:
- Improving your job performance
- Easing your stress
- Boosting your energy
- Sharpening your memory
- Lifting your mood
- Helping you react faster
- Making you more alert
So next time you feel the urge to take a daytime cat nap, consider giving into it . . . as long as it doesn’t mean nodding off on the job, of course!