Why Afternoon Naps are a Sign of Health, Not Laziness.

Most of us usually lack time to take a nap in the afternoon, due to the numerous household chores, jobs, bills, and all other responsibilities that keep our schedules packed.

And this can often be exhausting, even on the best of days. Therefore, if you feel drained and your energy flags in the middle of the day, you should know that 34 percent of Americans nap.

Some consider naps childish and lazy, while others believe daytime naps are counter-productive and will wreck their sleep at night. Yet, these are all stigmas, as napping is a healthy way to restore the deficits of sleep deprivation.

If you do not enjoy a mid-afternoon siesta and never stop to snooze, you might need to reconsider your daily habits, as napping is very beneficial.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 20 to 30 minutes nap effectively restores alertness and boosts performance. Moreover, being short, such a nap will not affect nighttime sleep and will avoid the bleariness that occurs after an extended nap.

A NASA study found that a 40-minute nap took by military pilots and astronauts improved their performance by 34% and their alertness by 100%.

Naps are a way to recharge and slow down, so they prevent burnout and improve overall health and well-being.

A 2010 study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory investigated whether daytime naps also improve memory processes, particularly associative memory, which is the ability to make connections between unrelated objects.

The study involved 31 healthy participants who were given a learning task at noon to memorize two sets of face-object photograph pairs. The objects in each pair occurred in both sets but were paired with different faces.

Participants were divided into two groups: those who had a 90-minute daytime nap or those who did not. At 4:30 p.m., participants who napped showed dramatically better retention of associative memory.

Additionally, a 2006 study at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center found that naps and caffeine aided night workers improve at their jobs.

One of the researchers, James K. Walsh, Ph.D., explained that due to 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 is especially helpful in people who are driving for extended periods of time. Experts recommend the driver to pull over, drink a caffeinated beverage and nap for 20 minutes before hitting the road again.

Plus, scheduled napping has also been prescribed for people affected by narcolepsy.

Napping has psychological benefits, so naps are an easy way to rejuvenate the body and relax.

Frequent naps are also useful when you are learning a new skill. A 2006 study in Biological Physiology div participants divided into two groups: those who napped frequently and those who napped sporadically.

All participants were given a nap before a reading task. Habitual nappers were found to do better on the reading and retention task. According to researchers, the brains of habitual nappers consolidated motor learning better, which is part of the process of learning a new skill.

There are several types of naps:

  • Planned napping-- This is a nap before you feel tired, usually before an event that you know will end late in the night, or it is only a way to ward off sleepiness before it comes.
  • Emergency Napping-- This is a nap in the afternoon when the energy dip strikes the hardest. It is useful for tired drivers or people who are operating dangerous equipment.
  • Habitual Napping-- Some people take a nap at the same time every day, for instance, after lunch.

For best effects, aim at an afternoon nap, no longer than 20–30 -minutes. This nap will boost alertness without making you feel groggy afterward.

The room should be with a comfortable temperature, limited noise, and dim light.

However, note that even though the benefits of a short nap daily cannot be denied, they are not feasible at times. Naps can sometimes cause grogginess and disorientation, usually when the nap exceeds the recommended 20-30 minutes. Also, people struggling with sleeping issues might worsen the issue by taking naps.

Therefore, try and see what works best for you. If you are among the ones that fully enjoy the benefits of a short nap, rejoice. Science has your back.