While dozing off on the couch is tempting to catch more Zzz’s in the afternoon, there is actually an art to napping. The length of naps for adults should be withheld between a short 10 to 20-minute timespan, with anything beyond 30 minutes increasing the risk of sleep inertia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep inertia is defined as “the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep.” While it tends to last only a few short minutes to half-hour, such drowsiness can be detrimental and even harmful for individuals who must work or perform immediately following the nap. And in people who are sleep-deprived or nap for lengthier periods of times, post-nap impairment and disorientation tends to last longer and be more severe.
While schedules may dictate napping patterns, sleep experts encourage individuals to stay consistent with naptimes, along with taking a nap before 4:00 p.m. Between 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. is touted as the best window for napping to inhibit the risk of disrupted sleep cycles come nightfall. Along with allotting time for a nap, create a relaxing sleep environment to ease and hasten the transition of falling asleep. Be sure to turn off the lights, shut the blinds, power off all electronics, and limit any other distractions that may impede on the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Benefits of Napping
According to Sleep.org by the National Sleep Foundation, a nap can…
…recharge the body.
Naps can recharge and restore energy levels, boost alertness, and improve motor performance. However, it is important to stick to the 20-minute rule to recharge and lessen the risk of sleep inertia. And since consuming caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours is discouraged for adequate sleep, naps act as a natural means to recharge the body and keep it energized the rest of the day.
Taking a nap can zap the stress that comes with day-to-day responsibilities and obligations. In fact, regular and short naps can help lower tension, in turn reducing the risk of heart disease. Diminishing stress can also diminish the potential of stress and emotional eating and the additional health concerns it surfaces.
A sleepless night can turn into a restless day, making it difficult to be the happy-go-lucky person you are naturally known to be. Sneaking in a nap can abolish sleep-deprived irritability and boost your mood; and not to mention, that daily “mini-vacation” can improve mental health!
Additionally, regular and scheduled naptimes has shown to be an effective treatment option for those diagnosed with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis (feeling conscious but unable to move), hallucinations, and potential episodes of cataplexy (a partial or total loss of muscle control). Naps may also indirectly change metabolism and facilitate healthy weight loss, mostly by energizing workouts and lessening the risk of cravings and over-consumption of carb-rich foods. All-in-all, napping shows to profit good health and wellness and validates the need of adequate sleep for a total healthy lifestyle!