To nap or not to nap, that is the question. You’ve probably heard several different accounts on the impacts of napping –– likely to the tune of “it will ruin your sleep cycle.” While there is some truth to this old wives’ tale, research shows that taking a cat nap isn’t a no-no after all. A 2019 study found that participants who took naps were 48% less likely to have a cardiovascular event.

Napping between 1 pm and 3 pm has significant positive effects. Just don’t take it as a free pass to nap every day. There is a right way to nap and a way that can hurt your sleeping habits. 

It Turns Out That Napping Is A Good Thing

Various studies have explored the links between napping, mental agility and overall health. Even the Army recognizes the benefits of napping. Recently it announced that it would take on a new holistic approach to health within its ranks. The new manual released says, “Soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance… When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available.”

Despite the negative stigma associated with regular napping, there are plenty of benefits. According to Dr. Livingood, a Doctor of Natural Medicine and chiropractor, naps can be a powerful tool when used correctly. The ideal nap time is 10 to 20 minutes unless you can commit to a full sleep cycle. 

“A tip is to drink a cup of coffee before taking a nap which will allow you to sleep for 20 to 30 minutes before the caffeine starts to wake you up. Napping is very good for downregulating your stress nervous system and up-regulating your healing nervous system. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, support proper digestion and sexual functions,” says Dr. Livingood.

Benefits of napping:

  • Memory improvement
  • Decreasing stress
  • Increasing your mood
  • Reduce fatigue 
  • Relaxation 
  • Improve alertness

Just Keep It Short

The benefits don’t stop there. Katherine Hall, Sleep Psychologist and Sleep Coach at Somnus Therapy points out that napping can improve your mood, energy and productivity. It also can reduce the anxiety and physical and mental tension we may feel. “A short afternoon nap can leave you feeling alert and ready to tackle the rest of the day without feelings of ‘sleep inertia’ – which is the confused, disoriented and grogginess you can feel upon waking.”

“If you’re able to nap for a slightly longer period of time, say 60 minutes, evidence suggests that napping for this length can aid your learning. During this longer nap, your brain will start to transfer memories from your temporary holding facility – the hippocampus – to their permanent home – the cortex,” adds Hall.

The shorter the nap, the less likely it is to impact your sleeping patterns. If you plan to take a nap, make sure you set an alarm so you do not accidentally oversleep and ruin your chances of quality sleep at night. 

What Are The Downsides of Napping?

Napping isn’t for everyone. Generally, people are advised against napping because it can interrupt how you sleep at night. This is especially important when people are already having a hard time getting their recommended hours of sleep. 18% of people working from home are taking the time to nap during the day.

Dr. Kent Smith, D-ABDSM, ASBA, spoke to us about the common pitfalls many people fall into when taking naps.  

  • Napping too late in the evening: Evening naps can interfere with your sleep cycle, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. 
  • Napping too long: If you nap for too long, you are more likely to feel worse and groggy.
  • Relying on sugar: Exhaustion leaves us reaching for foods with high sugar contents for temporary energy, which can leave us more tired once the effect wears off. 
  • Don’t nap if you’re an insomniac: For those who suffer from sleep issues like insomnia, napping can make things worse.”

It’s worth noting that napping is not a healthy way to make up for sleep deprivation. If you’re having a hard time sleeping at night, think about why rather than just snoozing during the day. If you’re having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have a sleep disorder that naps will not help.

You should consider taking a nap if you’re sleeping or experiencing fatigue or know you’re sleeping may be impacted for the day. However, if you find that you are consistently fatigued for no apparent reason, you should talk to a doctor. 

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

For adults, there’s a negative stigma when it comes to napping. It’s time to stop nap shaming in 2021 because the fact is, napping can be great for you! Especially during a global pandemic when stress levels are higher than ever before, and a nap could be a way just to relax. That said, you need to consider things– like how long you’re sleeping and what time you start.