Napping has long been a topic of debate. Some sleep researchers and physicians think that daily naps may interrupt with your circadian rhythms and your ability to rest during the night. Meanwhile others attest that a few minutes of shut-eye during the day does no harm, and can actually make you more alert and refreshed in the afternoon.
On the whole, however, a little nap during the day won’t do a lot of damage, provided that it’s done properly.
Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about enjoying a nap or two that won’t interfere with your energy levels, your ability to sleep, or your outlook for the remainder of the day.
As it turns out, humans are actually wired to feel a dip in their energy levels in the early afternoon. This is because our circadian rhythms naturally lower for a little while during this timeframe, resulting in that post-lunch sleepy feeling.
So if you need to nap, try to coincide it with this early-afternoon timeframe that naturally aligns with your circadian rhythms. A nap between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. is optimal for enjoying a little rest without interfering with your naturally occurring sleep patterns.
As it turns out, there is such a thing as too much sleep, and this is especially true when it comes to napping!
Napping for an hour or more (for adults) is generally considered to be too much, as this will likely set the stage for having issues with falling and staying asleep once the nighttime finally rolls around.
Instead, try to opt for naps that are roughly 20 minutes long. This way, you will stay in the non-REM, or the lightest stage of your sleep, and won’t venture into the deeper stages of sleep where it will be much harder to wake up feeling energized and refreshed.
Obviously, sleeping on the job is never a good idea, and heading to your bedroom may also cause you to sleep longer than anticipated.
Instead, find a happy medium that is comfortable, quiet, and which isn’t necessarily where you lay your head at nighttime, too. A sofa or guest bed will work nicely, and if you’re traveling or on the go, bring along a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or an eye mask to minimize the outside distractions.
Most important, be cognizant of potential issues that may actually be the root cause of your desire to nap.
People who have obstructive sleep apnea tend to nap often and on a routine basis, simply because they are not achieving that quality sleep during the night, and their brains and bodies are desperate for rest in any form. If you nap regularly but still feel sluggish and tired during the day, it’s a clear sign that obstructive sleep apnea is a deeper problem.
Napping doesn’t have to interfere with your overall sleep schedule, provided that you don’t overindulge. Enjoy an afternoon break in a comfortable environment, keep it short, and you’ll likely still feel energized and ready for the rest of the day once your eyes open again.