Sleep Disorders

Updated 19 June 2020

Here's why you should be napping more

These reasons will make you want to drop everything and take a nap.

Humans are among the few mammals that divide a 24-hour period into two distinct parts – sleeping and waking.

According to the National Sleep Foundation more than 855 of mammalian species sleep for short periods throughout the day (polyphasic), whereas humans tend to have distinct period of sleeping and wakefulness (monophasic).

However, like our animal friends, many humans also nap during the day – with beneficial effects.

Naps can be divided into three categories, according to the National Sleep Foundation:

1. Planned Napping: taking a nap before you feel sleepy, or before an event or task that needs attending to.

2. Emergency napping: taking a nap when you are suddenly very tired and can’t focus on the task at hand. This type of nap is especially beneficial for those who drive or operate heavy machinery.

3. Habitual napping: taking a nap at the same time each day. This is especially common among young children and older people.

Benefits of napping

  • Increases patience: When you are frustrated or angry, taking a nap will increase your tolerance level as well as your patience. It also reduces mistakes and accidents.
  • Increases alertness: When you are tired, you are not always paying attention. A study conducted on sleepy military pilots and NASA astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved their performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.
  • Lowers your blood pressure: If you suffer from hypertension, just thinking about a nap can decrease your blood pressure. Research suggests that midday naps may boost your heart health, coupled with a good diet and exercise.
  • Improves memory: Taking an hour long nap improves your memory, especially when you are performing complex tasks.
  • Reduces stress: Simply resting for 10 minutes can lift your mood and lower tension and stress, even if you don't actually fall asleep. It is a natural way to replenish your energy levels.

Unfortunately, though, there are stigmas attached to napping. Napping is associated with laziness, low standards, a lack of motivation and a lack of ambition.

Some people may also have trouble sleeping at night if they take a nap during the day, or have troubling falling asleep in any other place besides their own bed. Others may simply have trouble falling asleep when it is still light outside.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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