Afternoon nap-time typically coincides with a brief lag in the body’s internal alerting signal. This signal, which increases throughout the day to offset the body’s increasing drive to sleep, wanes slightly in mid-afternoon, giving sleep drive a slight edge. Napping also typically happens during the warmest period of the day and generally follows a large mid-day meal, which explains why afternoon sleepiness is so often associated with warm afternoon sun and heavy lunches.
According to sleep experts, napping can be a good way for people who do not sleep well at night to catch up. They do caution, however, that people with insomnia may make their nighttime sleep problem worse by sleeping during the day. Otherwise, they generally recommend naps for people who feel they benefit from them.
A short nap is usually recommended (20-30 minutes) for short-term alertness. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.
Your sleep environment can greatly impact your ability to fall asleep. Make sure that you have a restful place to lie down.
Naps can be typed in three different ways:
- Planned napping (also called preparatory napping) involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier.
- Emergency napping occurs when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in. This type of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery.
- Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each day.
Napping isn’t always the best option for everyone. For example, some people have trouble sleeping any place other than their own bed, making a nap at the office or anywhere else unlikely. Other people simply have trouble sleeping in the daytime; it could be that certain individuals are more sensitive to the midday dip than others – those who are may feel sleepier and have an easier time napping.
Naps can leave people with sleep inertia, especially when they last more than 10-20 minutes. Sleep inertia is defined as the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with awakening from a deep sleep. While this state usually only lasts for a few minutes to a half-hour, it can be detrimental to those who must perform immediately after waking from a napping period. Post-nap impairment and disorientation is more severe, and can last longer, in people who are sleep deprived or nap for longer periods.
Napping can also have a negative effect on other sleeping periods. A long nap or a nap taken too late in the day may adversely affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, a nap may amplify your problems.
While research has shown that napping is a beneficial way to relieve tiredness, it still has stigmas associated with it. Napping is seen as laziness; indicating a lack of ambition and low standards. Many believe that napping is only for children, the sick and the elderly. This stigma keeps many from napping.
Whether or not naps will be helpful to you can only be determined by trying it. Lay down with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Even if you don’t sleep, this resting will go a long way to fighting both stress and fatigue. Educate the people around you about the benefits of napping. Tell them that napping is about improving performance as well as your over all health.