Sadly, napping is often frowned upon in our workaholic American culture. Naps are reserved for the lazy and unambitious or for retirees with plenty of time on their hands. Naps are not for the busy working class of men and women. In actuality, naps can be very beneficial, not only for your body, but your productivity as well.
The Benefits of Napping
- Reduced fatigue
- Increases alertness
- Improves learning and working memory
- Prevents burnout and reverses information overload
- Improved performance, including quicker reaction time, less confusion, and fewer accidents and mistakes
- Heightens your senses and creativity
- Improves health
- Improved mood
The Drawbacks of Napping
Napping is not for everyone. Some people are able to get the full benefits of taking a nap and others experience negative effects of napping. Two of the biggest drawbacks to napping are sleep inertia and nighttime sleeping problems. Sleep inertia is when you are in a groggy or sleepish state after waking from your nap. This state will pass, but during the time it takes to pass you are likely to be less productive and less focused. Nighttime sleeping problems are a common drawback to naps. Naps can disrupt your natural sleeping pattern and cause insomnia at night.
Over 70% of deaths worldwide are related to non-communicable diseases (NCD) and they devastate individuals, families, communities, and country healthcare systems.
Stages of Sleep
Before we can get to the four basic naps and their benefits we need to understand each sleep stage so that each nap can give us the benefit we intend. There are five different stages of sleep, 1,2,3,4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). You cycle through each cycle, which lasts about 90-100 minutes, during your primary sleeping time. This is where the time of your nap becomes critical to the benefit you want to get from your nap.
Stage 1: This is the shortest stage of sleep and is basically used as a transition stage into deeper levels of sleep.
Stage 2: This is where you spend the bulk of your sleep. Your basic and complex motor skills are refined during this period as well as your energy, stamina and senses are all boosted.
Stages 3 and 4: In these stages your body stops releasing cortisol altogether and extra growth hormone goes to work restoring your body, repairing tissues, lowering stress, metabolizing fats and moving carbs out of your body. Your mind also goes through a cleaning process by disregarding memories that are no longer in use, strengthening ones that are in use and opening up room for new information to be retained.
REM: The main function REM sleep provides is that it helps transfer short term memories to long term memories. This is why sleeping closer to the time you learn new information helps you retain that information better.
So now let’s get to the good part and see what the different kinds of naps are you should be taking!
Length of Naps
10 to 20 minutes
This power nap is ideal for a boost in alertness and energy. This length usually limits you to the lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep, which makes it easier to hit the ground running after waking up. The 10 to 20 minutes prevents inertia from being a problem. Also, because you are able to get into stage 2 of your sleep cycle you are able to increase your stamina throughout the day.
Your body is basically stuck in limbo here. It has started the restorative process in stages 3 and 4, but has yet to complete the full restorative process. Some studies show not being able to complete the full process that stages 3 and 4 offer your body may cause sleep inertia, a hangover like groggy feeling that last for up to 30 minutes after waking up.
This nap is best for improvement in remembering facts, faces and names. It includes slow-wave sleep, the deepest type. The downside is there is some grogginess upon waking up.
This is a full cycle of sleep, meaning the lighter and deeper stages, including rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, typically likened to the dreaming stage. This lead to improved emotional and procedural memory (like riding a bike or playing the piano) and creativity. A nap of this length typically avoids sleep inertia, making it easier to wake up.