When we leave school and embark on our ‘adult’ lives, naps seem like a distant part of the past. Days are packed with routines and duties like our jobs, bills, household chores, grocery shopping, carpools, and insurmountable piles of laundry, we are just too busy to sleep. Not that we don’t dream of collapsing into bed, just for a few minutes. There’s too much to do, and our packed schedules are draining and, ironically, make us dream of rest.
Some people might consider naps as indulgent, childish, or lazy. On a busy day, we must keep grinding if we are to get any work done. Besides, many think daytime naps will wreck their sleep at night, leading to the idea that they are actually counter-productive.
However, these assumptions aren’t exactly true. Naps can be productive while maintaining nighttime habits. Hear me out.
The Afternoon Energy Dip
Our energy naturally decreases in the afternoon, which is when the thought of our beds become the most desirable. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a 20 to 30 minutes nap to restore alertness and — get this — improve performance. The short length will avoid affecting nighttime sleep and the bleariness that comes after an extended nap.
The Benefits of Naps
Sometimes it’s better to stop and rest instead of plowing on a with a project that is going nowhere because of exhaustion. A NASA study found that military pilots and astronauts who took a 40-minute nap improved their performance by 34% and their alertness by 100%. This alertness can extend for hours into the day and increase our productivity. 
Naps can prevent burnout, especially during busy or stressful periods. They help us slow down and recharge for a short stretch of time. This can enhance our overall health and well-being. 
A schedule that involves “shift work” that deviates from the standard nine to five, like night shifts, can cause fatigue and impair workers’ performances. A 2006 study at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center found that naps and caffeine aided night workers improve at their jobs. 
James K. Walsh, PhD, one of the researchers who conducted the study, says, “Because of the body’s propensity for sleep at night, being alert and productive on the night shift can be challenging, even if you’ve had enough daytime sleep.”
This formula helps people who are driving for extended periods of time. Drowsy driving crashes happen, and what’s worse, they are preventable. Getting a full night’s sleep before the drive is ideal but not always manageable. Experts recommend the driver to pull over, drink a caffeinated beverage and nap for 20 minutes before hitting the road again.
The Types of Naps
- Planned Napping
This involves taking a nap before you feel tired. You may have used this in the past when you know you’re going to stay up later than your usual bedtime for an event or flight, or simply to ward off sleepiness before it comes.
- Emergency Napping
This usually happens when the afternoon energy dip strikes the hardest. You feel exhausted and can’t continue your current activity without stopping for sleep. This type of nap is especially useful and recommended for those who feel tired while driving or operating dangerous equipment.
- Habitual Napping
This is a habit where a person takes a nap at the same time every day. This practice is often seen with children or elderly persons, or even adults who like to take a nap, say after lunch, every day. 
How to Achieve the Perfect Daytime Nap
A perfect afternoon nap should be no longer than 20–30 minutes. This length will improve alertness without any grogginess that follows an extended nap.
The sleep environment is another important thing to consider. Ensure the room is restful with a comfortable temperature, limited noise, and dim light. For those who can’t fall asleep easily, lying in bed is restful in itself
A nap too late in the day may disrupt a person’s night sleeping pattern, and a nap too early in the day may not work since the body may not want more sleep. Found an appropriate time in between, and sip some water before and after the nap. Being properly hydrated will improve your wakefulness as well. 
Word of Caution
Although naps have undeniable benefits, they aren’t for everyone. Sometimes naps are not feasible, like for those who work in an office but can’t fall asleep anywhere but their own bed. Others may not be able to fall asleep during the day at all.
Negative effects of naps include:
- Inertia (grogginess and disorientation) This usually occurs when the nap exceeds the recommended 20-30 minutes and the symptoms are worse for those who are already sleep-deprived.
- Too-long naps can also affect a person’s sleep later that night. If someone is already struggling with sleeping issues, naps might worsen the issue. 
These effects can be avoided with an alarm to stop the nap after 20 minutes, but again, try and see what works best for you. For those who work better with a daily nap, rejoice. Science has your back. It may take some time to adjust to a nap routine, so a little jet-lagged-ness, in the beginning, is perfectly normal.
Here’s to healthy, restful days!
- NASA Science. NASA Naps. https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/03jun_naps June 3, 2003
- National Sleep Foundation. Health Benefits of Napping https://www.sleep.org/articles/napping-health-benefits/
- Schweitzer PK, Randazzo AC, Stone K, Erman M, Walsh JK. Laboratory and field studies of naps and caffeine as practical countermeasures for sleep-wake problems associated with night work. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16453980 Jan 29, 2006
- National Sleep Foundation. Napping https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping
- Alex Myles. Why Afternoon Naps are a Sign of Health, Not Laziness. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/07/why-afternoon-naps-are-a-sign-of-health-not-laziness/ July 11, 2017
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