Ask any of my close friends or my parents, and they will confirm that if there is one thing I am naturally good at, it’s sleeping. Whether it’s an hourlong nap after work, my traditional post-church Sunday nap or an "accidental" early bedtime (e.g., "I only planned on sleeping until 5 p.m., but I was conked out until midnight. Oh well, I guess it’s time for bed again …"). I like to get my sleep on.
However, I am often chastised for my nap affinity—"You sleep too much"; "Why don’t you get up and do something with your day?" So I’m writing this for the haters. Naps are wonderful, socially acceptable timeouts for adults.
Reasons to/benefits of napping
Getting an adequate amount of sleep at night has a ton of health benefits, ranging from better memory and stronger bones to its link as a protective factor against obesity and heart disease. Plus, sleep enables you to better handle annoying workplace situations like this. So yes, we all know getting a good night’s sleep is good. Might some of these same benefits be linked to naps?
Though often looked down upon as a hallmark of laziness, it appears that napping in moderation can accompany a healthy lifestyle. These beautiful mini-vacations are not just for kids and the elderly, folks. Some napping benefits for adults include reduced fatigue, relaxation, improved alertness, increased mood and improved performance (e.g., quicker reaction time, better memory, less confusion, fewer mistakes, etc.). Along the lines of that last benefit, a NASA study found significantly higher levels of alertness in pilots who napped for 40 minutes, compared to pilots who did not.
Nap like a pro
Like most good things in life, there is good and bad form when it comes to naps. The primary drawbacks to be considered is whether a nap will increase rather than decrease grogginess and whether it will interfere with nighttime sleep.
Naps should be kept to about 10-30 minutes, which is "power nap" territory. Throwing the word "power" in front of "nap" seems to be something Westerners did to make sleeping in the middle of the day sound astute and posh. Anyway, the longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward (sleep inertia), which completely defeats the purpose of your post-lunch, parking lot snooze. This means that setting your alarm clock and obeying its loud, obtrusive demand is essential. (Ironically, I have to admit that in the middle of writing this article, I planned to take a 30-minute nap to "boost my creativity" and ended up sleeping for eight hours. Though I’m no amateur napper, I clearly have some things to learn about the alarm clock.)
The best time of day to take a nap is midafternoon, near 2 or 3 p.m. That is the time of day when dayshift workers are likely to experience post-lunch sleepiness and experience a lower level of alertness. It seems that the midday siesta utilized in many cultures is really on to something.
Naps in the middle of the day are least likely to interfere with your nighttime sleep. But individual factors play a key role in the best time to nap as well. Know your body, your sleep needs and your sleep schedule. Some people (like myself) can take a nap at 7 p.m. and still be ready for bed at 10:30 p.m., whereas others would be wired beyond belief if they followed that schedule.
In addition, try to nap in a dark room (or wear an eye mask). Blocking out light makes you fall asleep faster. Also, keep a blanket nearby because body temperature drops when you’re snoozing.
After waking up from a nap, give yourself a little time to adjust back to the real world. Awakening from my magical slumber usually leaves me feeling like this, so just take it easy for a few minutes after you open your eyes.
It seems that the social stigma against napping is slowly waning, and I could not be more excited about not incurring judgment for something I’m going to do anyway. To you naysayers, I encourage you to try it—do it right (as stated above), and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Rashad J. Gober is a gym junkie, avid runner and freelance writer whose interests include pop culture and healthy living. But he's not a doctor, so his suggestions are no substitute for medical advice. Feel free to contact him via Twitter or email with any comments or suggestions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.