As a society, we have a weird relationship with napping.
Some people love the guilty pleasure of a quick nap; others find it a waste of time; a few others find that their type-A personality gets in the way of truly napping.
But research has been steadily growing and shows there are truly some benefits of napping we could all take advantage of – if we get our facts straight.
The Benefits of Napping Done Right
There is a stigma attached to napping. Some people look at it as being lazy or unambitious.
Quite the contrary, many highly successful people in history have been nappers: Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan were all known to catch some quick zzzz’s during the day. One might say that the 20th century was built by habitual nappers!
There might be a reason for this. Research has been accumulating showing that, when done right, napping can have several benefits:
- Naps lessen daytime sleepiness and can help recover sleep debt, over time.
- Naps can restore alertness, which reduces critical mistakes and accidents on the job.
- Napping also improves working memory.
- Naps provide relaxation and help to fight the negative aspects of stress.
- Naps sometimes improve circulation and regulate cortisol, the hormone that signals your body to create fat.
- Some people claim that naps help boost their creativity and openness to ideas; at the very least, we know that they can boost your mood.
So, What is the Ideal Nap?
There is some disagreement as to what “napping right” looks like. The National Sleep Foundation, for example, recommends a short nap, about 20-30 minutes long, to help improve alertness during the day. Shorter naps, they claim, help prevent that feeling of grogginess that sometimes comes with long afternoon naps.
The Journal of Sleep published an article not too long ago suggesting even shorter naps of 10-20 minutes long.
On the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Sara Mednick, author of the book "Take a Nap!" recommends an ideal nap is around 90 minutes long and taken between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. (Side note: Banner provides the mattresses that Dr. Mednick uses in her sleep labs for scientific research and case studies!)
In the end, every person will need to experiment to find the ideal nap length and time that works for them.
Napping Myths, Busted
Myth #1: Napping is for small kids and the elderly.
OK, so kids and the elderly are often the ones we catch napping. But many adults nap as well-- and those that don’t should consider it, for the benefits listed above.
Myth #2: Some people “just aren’t nappers.”
That’s not how our brains or bodies work. Sometimes we hear people say that they are just too “Type-A” to take a nap. In fact, these people are probably just missing cues that they are tired or less alert. Using relaxation aids, such as calm music, can help.
Myth #3: If I take a nap, I’ll only wake up feeling worse.
This does sometimes happen. The technical term for it is sleep inertia, and it is marked by a kind of grogginess you get when you first wake up from a long nap. But not all naps lead to this feeling. If you get groggy often, it might mean you need to experiment with shorter naps or find out your natural sleep rhythm.
Myth #4: To get the benefits of napping, you have to fall asleep right away.
his is not necessarily true. First of all, you can spend some time getting to sleep and still get in a good 20-minute power nap. Even if you don’t sleep, you can still have a great nap by meditating, for example. The idea is to rest your brain and your body, without little to no outside distraction.
Myth #5: Caffeine will keep me from napping.
If we’re talking about those two morning cups of coffee, relax: Their effect will have worn off by the time you are feeling that afternoon nap. If you have caffeine before your nap, things will depend on your metabolism and how your body process that caffeine. In fact, some people will experience a period of sleepiness just after ingesting an amount of caffeine (sometimes lovingly called a “latte nap”). All that said, caffeine can disrupt natural sleep patterns, so moderation is always recommended.
Myth #6: You shouldn’t nap after a certain time of day.
Most experts recommend not napping after 4:00 pm for fear that it might disrupt your normal sleep pattern. But this only appears to be true for people with insomnia or other sleep problems. Most people can tolerate a short power-nap well into the evening if they need it.
Myth #7: A nap will make people think you’re lazy.
Yes, that’s the impression sometimes. But as more and more research comes out showing how beneficial naps are, people are coming to accept that quick daytime naps might actually make us more productive. So, do what’s good for you. You can’t control what people will think, but you can make wise decisions that will help you be healthy and productive.
At the End of the Day, Should We Be Napping More?
Naps help with attention, working memory, and mood, and so they are often just what you need to get through the day in a happy, productive way. The trick is making time for your nap, setting the right context, and discovering what your body needs to nap successfully without feeling the grogginess of “sleep inertia.” Doing so, however, can be well worth it.
If you’re looking to sleep, sleep your best, consider the wide array of mattresses and other products we carry here at Banner Mattress. We take pride in helping our customers, both in-store and online, find the right mattress and sleep system that fits their unique needs.
¹From the Mattress Showroom Website: “Not comfortable within 120 nights of your purchase? We'll exchange your mattress for one that's right.”
²When you buy a mattress from Banner Mattress, Banner will give you 120 nights to make sure you absolutely love your new mattress purchase. If not, you can exchange it one time for another mattress of the same size and of equal or greater value within 120 days from your purchase date. If you cannot find another mattress that you absolutely love, we will refund your purchase minus a small processing fee.