The art of a proper nap
Getting adequate sleep – that’s seven to eight hours a night for most adults – is critical for proper functioning.
Sleep deprivation can cause multiple health issues – both short-term and long-term – and can eventually put you at greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, weight gain and perhaps even Alzheimer’s Disease.
But in our busy lives, this much sleep can often seem unattainable. If you are not getting enough sleep each night, can an occasional nap benefit your health?
“I advise a short nap of 10-20 minutes to improve alertness, performance, mood and to help alleviate fatigue,” says Dr. Olusegun Apata, a pulmonologist, critical care physician and sleep specialist with Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “If you can take this time for yourself, ideally in a comfortable, somewhat dark and quiet area, it can really help you get through the rest of your day, be more safe and increase your productivity.”
He does caution against a couple of common napping errors:
- If you take a longer nap, usually 30 minutes or more, you run the risk of sleep inertia, which is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that happens if your “quick” doze takes you to a deep sleep.
- For many people, napping, especially too close to bedtime, may hamper their ability to fall asleep or stay asleep overnight. Try not to nap within four to six hours of bedtime.
“However, a nap will not make up for regular lack of sleep,” says Dr. Apata. “Sleep is vitally important, so you need to make it a priority. Without it, your brain will not function properly, and you are putting your health in jeopardy.”
If you feel tired and sleepy during the day despite getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, Dr. Apata recommends making an appointment with your physician. He or she may recommend a sleep study to see if you are getting quality sleep or if you have an underlying health issue that is affecting your slumber.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”