The Importance Of Naps On Sleepless Days

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The Importance Of Naps On Sleepless Days

 What Is Naps

A nap is a brief period of sleep that is typically taken during the day. One-third1 of all adults in the United States sleep. Many people swear by naps as an effective way to relax and recharge, while others find them to be ineffective and disruptive to their sleep.

Not all naps are created equal, and a variety of factors influence how beneficial naps can be. You can learn to take effective naps that support your body's internal clock and maintain your energy level throughout the day by understanding the role of napping.

Nap Varieties

Naps are classified2 based on the purpose they serve. One step toward making napping work for you is to consider what you hope to gain from it.

  • Sleep Deprivation Can Leave You Tired The Next Day: Sleep deprivation can leave you tired the next day. If you stay up late or have interrupted sleep one night, you may need to take a recovery nap the next day to make up for lost sleep.
  • A prophylactic nap is one that is taken in advance of a sleep loss. Night shift workers, for example, may schedule naps before and during their shifts to avoid sleepiness and to stay alert while working.
  • Appetitive Nap: Appetitive naps are taken solely for the pleasure of napping. Napping can be relaxing and can boost your mood and energy level when you wake up.
  • Fulfillment Nap: Children require more sleep than adults. Fulfillment naps are frequently scheduled into the days of infants and toddlers, but they can also occur spontaneously in children of all ages.
  • When you are sick, you have a greater need for sleep. This is due to your immune system mounting a response to fight infection or promote healing, which necessitates the expenditure of additional energy. Naps are considered necessary during illness.

How Long Should I Take a Nap?

The length of naps is one important factor that contributes to their varied effects. We begin to move through a series of sleep stages whenever we fall asleep. Five-minute naps, according to the researchers, are too short3 to move deep enough through sleep stages to produce a significant benefit. Sleeping for 30 minutes or longer, on the other hand, allows the body to enter deep (slow-wave) sleep. However, oversleeping or waking up from slow-wave sleep can leave you groggy for up to an hour4. This state of drowsiness is also known as "sleep inertia."

Given these factors, the ideal nap length in most cases is one that is long enough to be refreshing but not so long that sleep inertia occurs. Naps lasting 10 to 20 minutes are thought to be ideal. They are sometimes referred to as "power naps" because they provide recovery benefits while not leaving the napper sleepy.

Exceptions include necessary naps when sick, which are often longer because our bodies require more sleep when sick. Also, because children require more sleep than adults, fulfillment naps should not be limited to 20 minutes.

If you're a healthy adult and want to sleep for a longer period of time, don't do it right before you need to be alert. Remember that napping during the day may interfere with your nighttime sleep.

Are Naps Beneficial?

Napping can be beneficial or harmful depending on a number of factors, including your age, the time and length of your nap, and the reason for your nap. To get the most out of napping, it's critical to understand how each of these factors affects the impact of a nap.

The Advantages of Napping

The technical term for the feeling of being pressed to sleep is homeostatic sleep drive. It is synonymous with the desire for food that we feel the longer it has been since our last meal. Your homeostatic sleep drive is low when you wake up after a good night's sleep. The pressure gradually rises throughout the day until we feel sleepy at bedtime. Sleeping at night reduces sleep pressure, and the cycle starts over the next day.

Napping during the day reduces homeostatic sleep drive, allowing us to feel more awake and perform better. As a result, napping can aid in the following areas:

  • reducing drowsiness
  • Improving Education
  • Assisting with memory formation
  • Emotional control

Drivers benefit from naps as well. Driving while drowsy is hazardous to your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the safety of others on the road. Each year, drowsy drivers cause hundreds of thousands of car accidents9 in the United States. To combat this, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration10 advises getting enough sleep (7-8 hours) every night. Get a good night's sleep before a long drive. If you begin to feel sleepy while driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests drinking caffeine and safely pulling over for a 20-minute nap. However, this is not a long-term solution because naps and caffeine are only known to increase alertness for a short period of time.
Shift work is defined as any work schedule that occurs between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Shift work is associated with an increased risk of adverse health effects and injury as a result of sleep deprivation and circadian rhythm disruptions. Planned napping improves shift workers' alertness and reaction time.

Napping's Negative Effects

Not everyone enjoys napping. In fact, some people believe that napping is counterproductive. While lowering sleep pressure can help with fatigue, it can also make it difficult to fall asleep at night. People who have difficulty falling or staying asleep at night, such as those suffering from insomnia, may want to avoid napping.

Shorter naps can reduce or eliminate sleep inertia (sleepiness after waking from a nap). However, even after a short nap, you may still feel disoriented, so napping may be inconvenient if you need to return to work right away.

The Best Way to Take a Nap

Taking a few key steps will help you have the most successful nap ever.

  • Set an alarm: According to studies, the ideal nap length for most people is 10-20 minutes. This allows for restorative sleep without drowsiness upon waking. You can counteract sleep inertia by limiting the amount of time you spend sleeping if you want to feel alert and productive after your nap.
  • Nap early: Napping late in the day can impair your ability to sleep at night. Try napping about halfway between when you wake up and when you plan to go to bed.
  • Make a sleep-friendly environment: In order to fall asleep, your environment should be conducive to napping. You may or may not have the best mattress available depending on where you are, but it helps to nap in a comfortable space that is dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Set aside your concerns: ruminating on stressors will keep you awake. Try relaxation exercises if you're having trouble letting go of worries and to-do lists. These can assist you in falling asleep and waking up refreshed and recharged after a nap.
  • Consider why you're napping: Consider what you hope to gain from your nap. When you set goals for yourself, you can plan your nap around them.

Age-Related Effects of Napping

Children require more sleep than adults, with younger children requiring more than older children. As a result, the role of napping evolves as we get older. The National Sleep Foundation issued age-specific evidence-based sleep recommendations13. These specify the total number of recommended hours of sleep per day, which should include both nighttime sleep and daytime naps.

While research shows trends in the effects of napping, each person is unique. Speak with a doctor or a sleep expert if you have any concerns about your sleeping habits.

Children's Napping

Napping can assist children in getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for a child's physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Naps in children have been studied by researchers from infancy to adolescence:

  • Infants (up to 1 year old): It is normal for infants to sleep the majority of the time. They may take one to four naps14 per day, lasting 30 minutes to two hours. According to research, taking a long nap after learning helps infants' memory15 consolidation.
  • Toddlers (1-2 Years Old): Napping begins to decline after one year of age, but naps are still necessary and beneficial at this age. One study discovered that toddlers who napped had a greater ability16 to self-regulate their behavior and emotions than toddlers who did not nap. There is also evidence that napping improves language learning17 in this age group of children.
  • Children (3-5 Years Old): Toddlers at this age require 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day. Some toddlers will begin to get enough sleep continuously throughout the night, while others will sleep during the night but still require a nap during the day.
  • Children (6-12 Years Old): Some children may stop napping after the age of five, but sleep needs and nap preferences vary greatly.
  • Teens (13-17 Years Old): There are a variety of obstacles that prevent teens from getting enough sleep at night. Teens can benefit from a recovery nap in order to maintain their cognitive performance18. However, studies have shown that teens who napped during the day slept less19 at night. Daytime naps may be ineffective in teens who already have problems sleeping at night.

Adults Napping

Many of the benefits seen in napping children are also seen in young adults. Napping in early adulthood can improve cognitive performance and emotion regulation while alleviating sleepiness. A midday nap, on the other hand, isn't for everyone. Working and other responsibilities can make napping impossible. Furthermore, some people simply have difficulty falling asleep during the day or when they are not at home.

Certain negative health effects have been linked to very long, mid-day naps in older adults (more than an hour in duration). Long naps have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes20, heart disease21, and depression22, according to research. This could be because long midday naps in adults are a sign of poor quality nighttime sleep. More research is needed to understand the links between napping and these negative outcomes in the elderly.

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