Naps are tricky things – sometimes they leave you feeling refreshed and energised while other times you feel even more exhausted! However, sometimes it feels impossible to make it through the day without having a nap to slip a little something-something into our tank. Do naps really deserve their place in our lives or should we find another solution to fix our sleepiness?
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The pros and cons of naps
• Pros of naps
Naps give you a quick energy boost
Most of us have experienced the miraculous saving power of a quick power nap when we’re dead beat in the middle of the day. Naps can definitely give you a kick in the pants when you need it most and make you feel more alert and in control.
Naps improve your memory
Naps that are slightly longer than your usual power nap can be really good for your brain and its cognitive processes. According to NASA, naps can improve your working memory. They can also help your brain retain and process information better.
Naps improve your mood
The mid-day exhaustion can sometimes make you feel like a downright scrooge. By boosting energy levels and putting a little pip in your step, naps can raise your mood and make you a little nicer to talk to!
• Cons of naps
Naps can affect your sleep at night
Taking naps can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night because it can interrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle. This may even lead to insomnia.
Naps don’t help you feel more alert
It was also discovered in the aforementioned NASA study that naps don’t actually help you feel more alert – rather, it’s the number of hours of sleep you get at night that determines your level of alertness.
You can feel worse after a nap
That awful state of disorientation and grogginess that comes with waking from a nap is an actual problem. This condition is called “sleep inertia” and it can leave you feeling worse after you nap, though the grogginess does wear off within 30 minutes.
Naps are just a temporary solution
Naps can’t actually solve your sleep deprivation woes if you aren’t getting enough quality sleep at night. Your body needs quality sleep to recover and get you ready for a new day, and naps can’t help you achieve this.
The pros and cons of naps are roughly about evened out, but the most important point here is that naps are really just temporary solutions to our sleep issues. Most of us utilise a monophasic sleep cycle, meaning we only need one good, long period of sleep a day. Naps don’t contribute to this sleep cycle and can even disrupt it, which means that they aren’t really a good idea for most of us. However, there are certain lifestyles where naps form a necessary part of your sleep cycle.
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When naps are a necessity
Some of us don’t have the opportunity to get a full night’s sleep due to career or lifestyle reasons. For example, shift workers and parents raising a new-born baby are not able to get long hours of uninterrupted sleep, so naps fit in nicely here. They can also be necessary for people whose jobs require them to constantly be on the highest level of alertness, such as drivers or security personnel. Having a power nap can help these people stay focused at work so that the risk of fatigue-related accidents is lower. If you find yourself in a similar situation, then it may be worth considering making adjustments to your sleep cycle..
Different types of sleep cycles
• Biphasic cycle
If you can’t get more than 6 hours of sleep at night, a daytime nap will help to fulfil your sleep requirements and help you avoid sleep deprivation.
• Everyman cycle
This cycle is for people who get less than 3.5 hours of interrupted sleep at night. You can then supplement your sleep cycle by taking 3 separate 20-minute naps.
• Dymaxion cycle and Uberman cycle
For these sleep cycles, your entire sleep balance is made up of naps alone. With the Dymaxion cycle, you take 4 separate 30 minutes a day, with each one being taken 6 hours apart from the other. The Uberman cycle is more intense – it comprises of 6 to 8 sets of 20-minute naps throughout the day.
It can be difficult making a switch to such sleep cycles, so it’s important to speak to a sleep expert to get advice on on the matter and whether it's truly suitable for your needs – the experts at our Active Health Labs will be more than happy to assist you. Whether you actually need to adopt a different sleep cycle to suit your lifestyle or if you just enjoy taking naps to revive your energy levels during the day, it’s important to know how to maximise the benefits from your naps. Here are some nap-time rules that just might help you achieve this.
Making the best of your naps
• Keep them short and sweet
The best duration for a nap is 30 minutes because any longer than that and you will be likely to feel groggier after waking up.
• Don’t nap after mid-day
The later your naps are, the more likely they will interfere with your sleep at night. It’s best to have your naps after lunch but before midday.
• Choose the right nap environment
The right nap environment will help you maximise the benefits from your nap by ensuring you get some quality sleep, no matter how short it is. Make sure your nap environment is sufficiently comfortable, dark and cool.
However, as mentioned earlier, naps are just a short-term solution to combating fatigue. When you constantly feel like you need a nap, it’s really a sign that your body needs more quality sleep at night. Getting more hours of sleep will help you feel more energetic during the day and reduce the need for naps so you can spend your daytime hours more productively. All you need to do is make some adjustments to your lifestyle habits in the following ways.
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How to get more sleep at night?
• Have a regular sleep schedule
You can get a lot more quality sleep when you stick to a regular sleep schedule. Waking up and sleeping at around the same time every day will keep your body’s circadian rhythm stable so that the chances of you experiencing insomnia or sleep deprivation will be lowered.
• Avoid long naps during the day
As tempted as you may be to indulge a good long snooze in the afternoon, always say “no” to long naps because they can disrupt your sleep schedule and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. This will naturally result in a vicious cycle of you feeling tired and craving a nap the next day.
• Don’t consume caffeinated drinks late in the day
Getting through work without caffeine sounds like a real nightmare, but there’s nothing wrong with getting your daily coffee fix as long as it's not after 3PM. The energising effects of caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours, so a cup of coffee or energy drink in the evening can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night.
• Power down your digital devices
Turn off your TV, smartphone and all other devices at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from these devices can mess with your body’s melatonin production and trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime, so you may experience difficulty falling asleep.
• Stay away from sugary foods and alcohol before bedtime
Sugary foods and alcohol definitely don’t mix well with sleep – they can cause you to experience wakefulness and disrupt your sleep quality, causing you to feel groggy the next day.
• De-stress before you sleep
Stressful thoughts and worrying can keep you awake way past your bedtime, so it’s important to de-stress before you sleep. Having a comforting pre-bedtime ritual like taking a relaxing shower or listening to calming music can put you in a more sleep-positive state. Engaging in relaxing activities such as mindful meditation are also excellent ways of de-stressing.
It’s undeniable how naps do occasionally come in handy, but unless your lifestyle deprives you of the chance to get a full night’s rest, it will be far more beneficial in the long-term to focus on getting more sleep at night instead of just jamming in more naps. While naps do come with certain benefits, they are only a short-term solutions. Plus, it's no fun having to constantly come up with new and inventive ways to sneak in a snooze without the boss knowing!