What you need to know about naps
People in the United States are becoming more and more sleep deprived. Taking a short 20 to 30 minute nap during the day could help improve mood, alertness and performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). But if you think napping can replace a good night’s sleep, you might be dreaming.
“While napping has some health benefits, substituting periodic naps for a full night’s sleep creates severe sleep deprivation,” said Dr. Daniel Buysse, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, in an interview with the New York Times.
Dr. Buysse and his colleagues previously performed a study in which participants alternated between 30 minutes of sleep and 60 minutes of wakefulness for two and a half days straight. The results: the participants ended up sleep deprived.
“Our biological clocks do not allow us to sleep as well during the day as at night. All sleep is not necessarily equal,” explained Dr. Buysse.
While replacing a full night of sleep for periodic napping may not be recommended, naps do have valuable qualities. Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, reduce mistakes and accidents and provide psychological benefits, according to the NSF.
“Only one-third of people get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and one-third get fewer than six and a half hours of sleep,” says Dr. David Koh, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Insufficient sleep increases risk of sickness from a poor immune system, depression risk and can increase mortality.”
When deciding when to nap, and for how long, the NSF provides these tips:
- Short naps (20 to 30 minutes) are recommended for short-term alertness. These naps provide improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.
- Your sleep environment can greatly impact your ability to fall asleep. Find a place to lie down that has minimal noise and light and is a comfortable temperature.
- Napping is best when it’s not too early or late in the day. This will ensure that normal sleep patterns are not interrupted.
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