Whether we are in a class at school or a meeting at work, sometimes our brain gets exhausted and we feel like taking a nap. But how far it is good for health, let us see what studies say.
Studies on Napping
Many studies in the past have shown that daytime napping is associated with improved memory and performance in infants and children. Pre-schools specifically allocate nap times for children, because it helps them into better learning. Talking about this, research psychologist Rebecca Spencer explains that when we skip a nap, we are just piling more and more information into the children’s brain that just doesn’t have a capacity for. Importantly, napping is not just for children, power naps can also benefit memory in adults. Healthy napping can help you live longer, stay more active and look younger. In fact, researchers who tracked 23,681 Greek men for 6 years found that those who napped 3 times a week had a 37 per cent reduced risk of dying from heart disease.
Benefits of Napping
Several studies over the years have strengthened the connection between sleep and learning. A short nap favors consolidation of procedural memory and significantly boosts associative memory, i.e. the ability to remember unrelated items, like the name of a person we just met. In healthy adults, napping can have benefits like:
- Stress relief.
- Reduced fatigue.
- Mood improvement and increased alertness.
- Increased productivity.
- Improved performance, including better memory and less confusion.
- Improved motor skills and accuracy, and fewer accidents and mistakes.
As it benefits memory and health in long run, one can consider making time for short naps. Realizing its benefits, a number of proactive organizations are starting to provide the resources for their employees to ‘sleep on the job’. Since many years, Chinese factory workers are given half hour nap after lunch breaks, and the same culture is spreading to other countries as well. Major companies in the U.S. and Australia have even added Energy Pods (or Sleep Pods) to their work spaces.
Not for Everyone
Short napping is healthy, for memory too, but it isn’t for everyone, especially the ones who have sleeping problems at night (insomnia) and those having underlying illnesses. Moreover, some people just can’t sleep during the day, and some have trouble sleeping in places other than their own beds. Napping can also cause negative effects like sleep inertia and groggy and disoriented feeling afterwards.
You can consider creating time for a nap if you:
- Experience unexpected sleepiness or new fatigue,
- Experience sleep loss, like because of a long work shift,
- Want to plan naps as a part of your daily routine.
It’s important to keep your naps short, like for only 10 to 30 minutes, because the longer you nap, the more likely you are to face sleep inertia, i.e. feeling unsteady afterward. This is also because napping should not affect your nighttime sleep quality. The best time for a nap would usually be around 2 or 3 p.m. midafternoon, because it is the time when you might experience lower level of alertness or post-lunch sleepiness. However, consider individual factors too that can aid your healthy napping. It’s also important to create a restful environment for your nap, like choosing a quiet, dark place with a comfortable room temperature and less distractions.