Why Nap?

Science Daily reported on a study that found regular daytime napping to slow down the brain shrinkage that can happen as we age — “equivalent to 2.6 to 6.5 years of ageing.”

That sounds like a very good thing and is only one of a long list of benefits. The Sleep Foundation defines a nap as “a short period of sleep that usually occurs during the day,” and details some of the benefits as follows:

– Restore energy and reduce fatigue

– Boost work performance

– Improve cognitive functions, such as logic, memory, and ability to complete complex tasks

– Improve physical performance, such as endurance and reaction times

– Relieve stress and support the immune system

Following the rabbit down the hole, one study found an association between frequent napping and high blood pressure/stroke. As the article points out, it is unclear, however, which comes first. That is, daytime sleeping can be a symptom of an underlying condition rather than its cause.

This association with illness may be one reason for stigma and resistance, and there are others.

Resistance to Napping

According to one survey, ~34% of U.S. adults report taking a nap during a normal day, more old than young, with 20-60% of older adults around the world napping.

Always a good idea to check with your doctor about these things. Still, the idea that napping is associated with illness and old age might be a deterrent for people who might benefit.

Another deterrent or stigma is that not all cultures support daytime sleeping. Siesta cultures, e.g., some Mediterranean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cultures have a long-standing tradition, known as the siesta. The siesta is a midday break to rest and recharge. In these cultures, napping is a widely accepted and encouraged cultural norm. No stigma there.

But even though I have written before on calls for napping times and spaces in the U.S. workplace, that ‘innovation’ can be easier said than done in more work-oriented cultures that prioritize work and productivity, Countries like the United States, Japan, and South Korea often have work environments that emphasize long hours and high productivity levels. So, napping at the workplace may be viewed as a sign of laziness or unprofessionalism in these cultures, although attitudes are gradually changing.

And now, with so many working from home, it is not at all clear that it would feel any more legitimate and less stigmatized to nap at work at home.

Plus, people are busy. Where is that 20 minutes coming from? Or you may worry that if you don’t do it right, you could altogether mess up your nighttime sleep, which can be true.

So, for people already napping, or people who want to start, let’s take a look at some tips for getting this right for you.

Tips for Napping

From The Sleep Foundation:

How Long? Naps should be 20 or no more than 30 minutes. One reason for this is the sleep cycle, i.e., making sure we don’t wake up in the middle of a deep sleep that tends to occur later on in the cycle. Waking out of a deep sleep would leave us groggy and even more tired. And, one study found that napping more than 60 minutes a day was associated with developing Type 2 diabetes.

When? The post-lunch dip is part of our natural circadian rhythm, which works nicely with the recommendation to nap 8 or more hours before bedtime so we don’t mess up our nighttime sleep.

Where? Cool, dark, and quiet makes a good sleep environment. Interestingly, they recommend the bedroom if we are at home, and to set an alarm so we actually get up. But I am not sure  that day time bed time helps overcome the old age, laziness, and illness-related stigma problems, so I am thinking sofa in the living room for a quick nap instead. But that’s just me.

How? At the beginning of developing a napping habit, experiment with timing, location, and duration. You may also want to keep a napping log to help track your fatigue and energy levels before and after specific variations on your nap. Or you may want to keep it simple, and just take a nap.

And Get This!  Caffeine Naps. Can you even believe they mentioned drinking coffee just before your nap because the caffeine doesn’t kick in for 30 minutes so, between the caffeine and the nap, we can wake up with an extra special energy bolt. Who knew?

Of course, if you are regularly not sleeping well at night and compensating with naps, or feel you are napping excessively, there could be something else going on for you to talk with your doctor about.

And, for help with this or something else, Contact Me at [email protected]



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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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