Naps are typically associated with irritable children, seniors with plenty of time to wile away, or maybe someone battling sickness.
But plenty of other people are likely good candidates for a mid-day nap. There’s lots of evidence to suggest naps are a healthy way to recharge the batteries and can lead to more long-term productivity, not less.
Increasingly busy lifestyles in a culture that values hyper-productivity likely keeps many from napping because of the accompanying stigma of laziness, but it is commonly accepted that naps offer several benefits:
- Relaxation/stress reduction
- Reduced fatigue
- Increased alertness
- Improved mood
- Heightened performance, including quicker reaction time and better memory
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a short nap of 30 minutes or less for short-term alertness. This type of nap is ideal for boosting alertness and performance without any accompanying sluggishness or interference with nighttime sleep.
Even when feeling particularly tired, a poor environment can make it difficult to fall asleep—make sure it’s a restful place to lie down that’s quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature with few distractions.
Much research points to early afternoon as the ideal time for a nap. Napping late in the day, particularly for more than 30 minutes, can cause regular nighttime sleep to be restless, particularly for those who normally have bouts of insomnia.
A nap can also have psychological benefits as a way to relax and rejuvenate in the middle of an otherwise hectic day, although experts say longer naps can often produce sleep inertia, a period of grogginess that usually lasts only a few minutes.
Although nothing can replace regular, sound sleep for long-term health benefits, naps can be a tool to supplement periods of sleep deprivation and near-term fatigue, or just a way to slow down and relax in the middle of a day.