Is It Healthy to Nap Every Day? A Sleep Expert Weighs In
Oh, the wonders of a good daytime nap. Not only does it feel good to sleep when you’re tired, but a short nap can improve your alertness, performance, and overall mood.
However, what happens when it becomes an essential daily habit like brushing your teeth or eating breakfast, and you simply can’t function during the day if you skip your power nap?
While more research shows there’s a plethora of napping benefits, there are still situations where a nap is a no-go - no matter how badly you want that shut-eye - as it could actually end up making you feel worse. Yes, really.
The key is to know when it’s OK to take a nap as this can help you keep a consistent schedule to maximize your health and wellbeing. So, we asked an expert about everything there is to know about napping habits.
What does it mean if you need to nap every day?
According to sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo, it’s important to look at how you’re feeling overall.
“If your naps are partnered with symptoms of impaired sleep, such as waking unrefreshed, feeling ‘brain fog’, feeling anxious or unusually down, these are hallmark signs of poor sleep quality and could indicate a more serious sleep problem,” Arezzolo tells Bed Threads Journal.
It could also just mean you’re not getting those recommended 7-8 hours of sleep at night.
Is it healthy to nap every day?
Arezzolo says the answer is more complicated than a straightforward yes or no. Factors that need to be considered include frequency and timing.
“Evidence shows the more frequently you nap, the lower the quality of the nap: those taking three to four naps spend more time tossing and turning during the nap compared to those who take only one or two naps,” she explains.
“Similarly, if you nap too close to sleep, you risk not being tired that night. A recent study found on days they napped, individuals took 39% longer to fall asleep, compared to days they didn’t nap.”
Despite this, Arezzolo points out there are actually health benefits of a good nap. “NASA has found that napping can boost alertness by 54% and productivity by 34%, which I have no doubt appeals to us all,” she adds.
“When done correctly, naps can be great. But realistically, reserve them for when you need them most.”
4 ways to maximize your nap
1. Respect your chronotype
Arezzolo says it’s crucial it aligns with your chronotype, AKA your body clock. “Respecting your chronotype is critical to getting nap benefits without sabotaging your sleep at night.”
Below are the different chronotypes and their recommended sleep habits:
- Lion: Waking up at 6am, sleeping at 10pm, napping around 2pm
- Bear: Waking up at 7am, sleeping at 11pm, mapping at 3pm
- Wolf: Waking up at 7.30am, sleeping at 12am, napping at 4pm
- Dolphin: Tend to have an irregular sleep schedule so it’s best to avoid napping entirely
2. Keep it short
The same NASA study concluded 26-minutes was the perfect length of a nap. “This ensures you stay in a light sleep stage and avoid the risk of sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling upon waking,” explain Arezzolo.
3. Drink a coffee pre-nap (yes, really)
According to Arezzolo, “research shows you are less tired, more mentally sharp and make fewer mistakes when you do, compared to if you just napped alone.” Hey, guess you can’t diss it until you try it?
4. Ensure you nap in darkness
Even just a touch of light can decrease melatonin (your sleep hormone) and stimulate cortisol instead. “Studies show a dim interior light can impair melatonin synthesis by 50%, which leaves you with an un-refreshing, un-restorative nap,” Arezzolo notes.
How to overcome a napping habit
“Studies show it can reduce fatigue, improve mood and enhance frontal lobe functions such as attention, concentration, and emotional regulation - common objectives of a nap,” Arezzolo says.
Just 15-minutes of climbing stairs can boost your energy more than an espresso, according to a study published in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior.
Skip the arvo coffee
No, you don't actually need that 3pm coffee. Why not swap it for a cup of tea or a piece of fruit?
Olivia Arezzolo is a Sleep Expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology, Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); and Certificate of Fitness III + IV. Sign up to her sleep e-course here and follow her on Instagram @oliviaarezzolo.
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