Health Benefits of Napping

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There are many health benefits of napping. Napping can improve your performance, learning, and memory while reducing sleepiness, easing stress, and regulating emotions. It's a great way to get some extra sleep, recharge your energy levels, and improve your overall mood.

Napping is important for toddlers, children, and adults. There are several types of naps all of which are best to take before 5:00 pm so that you don’t disrupt your nighttime sleeping routine. How you adjust your naps can change how much you benefit from them. There are two popular techniques for optimizing the value of your naps: the power nap and polyphasic sleep. You can adjust both types to get more out of your nap.

1. Napping can Improve Your Memory

Napping has the potential to improve your memory if you do it the right way. Even a short nap can help you remember the information you learn. People who take naps during their break time retain more of what they've learned than those who do not. Students perform better on tests after taking a nap. If you're interested in studying more effectively, try incorporating power naps into your study regimen. Napping gives your brain time to rest and retain information, processing it and helping you memorize it. This is beneficial to everyone who studies and does a job where memory is crucial.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information did a study in 2021, researching if afternoon naps improve memory. The researchers found that benefits may depend on whether you're a habitual or non-habitual napper. 46 research participants napped for 90 minutes, while the other 46 participants remained awake. The results showed that an afternoon nap boosted factual knowledge learning irrespective.

Illustration of a Group of Students in Class

2. Napping can Reduce Sleepiness

Napping can help reduce sleepiness. If you're feeling drowsy during the day, a nap can help recharge your energy levels and increase your overall alertness and awareness. Many people who feel sleepy during the day find that they often have trouble concentrating and staying focused on what they need to do. Napping for even a half-hour can make a huge difference in your energy levels, allowing you to function more effectively. You can have a longer-lasting nap, but even half an hour is enough to recharge your batteries and fight the tiredness. After waking up, people often feel more energized and ready to take on tasks that otherwise seem daunting and difficult to complete.

3. Napping can Improve Learning

Napping can help in improving learning and memory. Naps improve your concentration and ability to learn and memorize new information. A study from China published by General Psychiatry in January 2021 suggests that naps between five minutes and two hours long are good for your thinking and learning skills. More than 2,200 adults were subject to the research, 1,500 of which were regular nappers. The researchers checked their cognitive assessments and blood tests to learn that nappers performed better on cognitive tests. Nappers who participated in the study scored better on location awareness, memory, learning, and verbal fluency. Regular napping is beneficial for learning if you have to learn every day. It may affect how you memorize things and understand new tasks better over time.

4. Napping can Regulate Emotions

Napping can help regulate emotions by allowing you some time to step away from stress to rest. Sleep helps you process daily emotions and stress, which is why lack of sleep affects social function and emotional reactivity. Not getting enough sleep could have emotional effects regular napping can help with. By teaching your body to rest, you may experience less emotional distress or anxiety than you would if you hadn't taken a nap.

Sad Woman Walking by a Happy Couple with a Kid Illustration

5. Napping can Improve Performance

Napping can help improve performance in a variety of fields. If you're looking to learn something new, allocating time for napping during your study session increases how much you retain and remember from your studies. Athletes who nap before a match or game have been shown to play better than those athletes who don't take a post-game nap. Napping for about 30 to 90 minutes may help you complete tasks that previously felt overwhelming and difficult to do. If it becomes difficult to sleep despite feeling tired, stop what you're doing and rest in a quiet place until you feel sleepy enough. Napping is especially important for students, athletes, and people who work for more than eight hours. Having a short break to nap for about half an hour may help you perform better once you wake up.

6. Napping can Ease Stress

Napping can help you ease stress and relax. Although too much napping can cause problems, creating a nap ritual or schedule can set your body into relaxation mode. The best time of the day to take a nap is usually between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. because most people naturally feel tired during this period. Setting the alarm to take a quick nap for 20 minutes can help reduce stress by increasing serotonin production, which controls your mood. Serotonin is combined with melatonin to control the body's sleeping and waking cycle. It can help reduce anxiety and stress when you're feeling overwhelmed by a situation or a task at hand. Daily naps can prevent cortisol spikes throughout the day. Cortisol spikes can make it more difficult to sleep at night. Waking up after a short nap leaves most people feeling refreshed and ready to take on stressful tasks and situations with better clarity and problem-solving.

7. Napping is Good for Your Heart

Napping is good for your heart, but only if you don't nap for too long. Taking a short nap after lunch may help reduce your risk of heart disease by decreasing post-meal blood sugar spikes. People who have had more sleep after lunch may be less likely to show metabolic changes, such as high fasting glucose levels and increased insulin resistance. After a meal, insulin control can affect how you process glucose in your body, which is the primary source of energy for your heart. Heart rate variability may also help predict cardiovascular risk in people with insulin resistance. Napping for about an hour can help regulate glucose levels, which can positively affect heart rate variability.

Heart on the Bed Pumping Blood Animation for Mobile

A study conducted in China in 2019 included 914 participants older than the age 61. They took long naps every day and showed a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who took short, irregular naps or no naps at all. In conclusion, the study showed that regular daytime napping that lasts longer than two hours was a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in older adults. So, although napping can help regulate your blood sugar and prevent heart disease, it's only the case if you take short naps.

8. Naps can Help You Sleep Better at Night

Napping can make it easier to fall asleep at night. Napping regulates cortisol spikes that keep adults awake during the night. Cortisol is a stress hormone that increases when your body is under stress, so taking a nap may help you relax and fight the feeling of awakeness when it's time to sleep at night.

When is the Best Time for Napping?

The best time for napping is usually between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., which is the time when most people naturally feel tired and want to take a nap. Napping later than 5 p.m. can interfere with your sleep cycle and keep you awake at night. Naps should be between 20 and 30 minutes long. Sleeping for longer than 30 minutes can create sleep inertia, which is the feeling of grogginess after waking up from a restful nap. This can be reduced by limiting your total nap length to 30 minutes or less.

Which Type of Nap is the Most Beneficial?

The most beneficial type of nap is the power nap. A power nap lasts ten to thirty minutes. Anything longer than that can't be considered a power nap. A power nap is the most beneficial because it gives your brain enough time to relax, reset, and memorize what you've learned. It's a good way of dealing with stress while getting the health benefits of a short nap.

Other types of naps include polyphasic sleep, prophylactic nap, recovery nap, and fulfillment naps for children and toddlers. The benefits of these naps depend on your tiredness level, the quality of sleep you receive at night, your age, your activity level, and the amount of stress you deal with throughout the day.

Illustration of a Man Napping on a Couch

Is Napping Harmful?

Yes, napping may be harmful, depending on how you do it and your health circumstances. Short naps offer many benefits, but they may be harmful to those with parasomnia and other sleep disorders. If you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor about the feasibility of taking a nap. Disruptive snoring and varying breathing patterns during your nap can cause problems for those who live or work with people who suffer from sleep disorders.

Napping for too long can be harmful to your nighttime sleep pattern, general well-being, and increase your cardiovascular disease risk. Naps longer than an hour or two can make you feel sluggish and tired.

Content Writer

Jill Zwarensteyn is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.

She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.

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