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October 07, 2019

Daytime naps: good or bad?

Adult Health Sleep

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A woman napping on a couch cyano66/istock.com

As kids, naptime was always a dreaded time of day—an inconvenient interruption from the excitement of whatever held our attention at the time. As adults, however, squeezing in a daytime nap can be a welcome break from our never-ending list of responsibilities. But are daytime naps actually good for you?

Researchers have tried to get to the bottom of whether or not daytime naps are healthy for years, often landing on conflicting conclusions. Some say napping improves memory and cognitive function, while others warn that daytime napping can be a sign of an underlying health issue. It turns out, a one-size-fits-all answer doesn’t exist. The benefits or consequences of a day time nap all depends on who you are, how you nap, and why you’re napping.

Potential benefits of napping

Studies show that a brief nap lasting between 15 and 90 minutes is generally healthy, improving brain function, and creativity. In fact, it may even be as restorative as a full night’s sleep. Naps under 90 minutes can also lower stress levels, the rate of cardiovascular disease, and inflammation—making that lunch-break snooze pretty compelling, especially for people sleep experts call “natural nappers.”

Likely determined by genetics, these habitual nappers account for 40 percent of the population. Rather than waking from a nap confused and groggy, these experienced nappers don’t fall into a deep sleep during their naps. This makes it easier to wake up with increased productivity and alertness, and makes it much easier to turn down a sugar-filled energy drink or jitter-inducing coffee. But, for the other 60 percent, naps can ruin a day, causing them to experience sleep inertia: the disorientation following a day-time snooze.

Causes of excessive napping

Excessive napping, however, can be a sign of an underlying health condition or a response to ineffective nighttime rest. People who experience excessive sleepiness describe a general low-level of energy, often interfering with work and a social life. This can have drastic effects on your health, often weakening the immune system and causing weight gain. If you find yourself consistently napping for more than 90 minutes, talk to your doctor about the possible causes. If you’re napping during the day to make up for the inability to sleep at night, try re-assessing your bedtime routine. Put your screens away an hour before bedtime, and avoid work or other stressful activities in bed.

If you’re a natural napper who stays within that 15 to 90-minute time frame, don’t sweat it. Each individual’s sleep habits are unique, and if napping feels good to you, it probably is.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.

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