Napping can be a wonderful thing. But as with many things, you can get too much of a good thing. Here are some tips from recent research about taking a nap:
1. A short nap at midday, perhaps after lunch, can not only be very refreshing but can also improve our alertness and performance in the second half of the day. In such a brief nap, we are mainly in Stage 1 or Stage 2 sleep, which does not interfere with nighttime sleep patterns. For maximum effectiveness, the nap should be no more than 20-30 minutes. Beyond that, we run the possibility of going into deeper stages of sleep, which may interfere with peaceful sleep at night.
2. Naps later in the daytime, for example after work or in the late afternoon around dinnertime, regardless of length, greatly increase the chances of disrupting normal sleep patterns, especially if these naps become routine or lengthy.
3. Naps can not only improve alertness and effectiveness, but can be a physiological break from a stressful day. Like mindfulness or meditation, a nap can de-stress the body and put it into a relaxed state that helps disconnect stress from the bodymind.
4. Short naps can be especially effective for certain circumstances – those planning a long drive, or having undertaken a long drive, find themselves sleepy during the drive. Those with regular shift work who sleep during the day often cannot get enough daytime sleep and benefit from a short nap before work.
Is there a downside to napping?
Napping is not for everyone. Some people develop grogginess and trouble waking up even after a short nap of 15 minutes or so. Others just find it impossible to sleep in any other place than their own bed or don’t have a cool, quiet environment that is conducive to sleep. Some find their nighttime sleep more difficult even from a short nap. The only way to find out if this is you is to try it out.
Dr. Marcia Lindsey is a sleep coach/psychologist who trains individuals and groups to change the mental and physical roadblocks getting in the way of good sleep. To get your 10 sleep tips go to thesleepdiva.com.