If we have young children we have probably had nap lengths and timings on our mind a lot, making sure our little ones get the rest they need during the day. It is also very likely that when you were a new parent at least one person told you to ‘sleep while the baby sleeps’ – often easier said than done. Even if you don’t have children, the benefits of a nap are important for you too.
Taking naps during the day offer a wide range of health benefits.
A short ‘siesta’ can help us feel more relaxed, increase alertness, improve our mood and increase our physical performance, amongst many other benefits for mind and body. In the modern world we tend to be ‘on the go’ a lot and don’t often take a break to really give our minds and bodies the break they need. If we do pause we tend to scroll through our phones, read or watch TV. Whilst taking the time to slow down is beneficial, we may not be offering ourselves the best chance to reset and relax.
Many figures in history famously took naps during the day to boost their productivity and alertness. Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Arnold Schwarzenegger are just a few of the well known personalities who spoke of the importance of naps in their schedule and routinely made time for them each day.
Taking a nap isn’t always easy.
Not everyone finds it easy to nap. Aside from issues finding the time to nap, some people simply can’t switch off to sleep during the day, or might fall asleep and take a nap that is far too long and therefore detrimental to their night sleep.
Do you feel grumpy or disorientated after a nap, if so, you aren’t alone. This is called ‘sleep inertia.’ In order to avoid this, its best to stick to a nap of under 30 minutes, ideally 15-20 minutes. This will also help protect your sleep at night. Also making sure your nap is finished by around 3pm will ensure that your body is still ready for bed at bedtime.
Of course, we always need to take into account the individual – your age, your lifestyle and job etc. If you have insomnia, or struggle to sleep at night, taking naps can actually worsen this.
Who should take naps?
If you are feeling sleepy, if you are new parent or work shifts where you need to catch up on sleep, naps can literally be a life saver. Those who are healing from health conditions will also find that napping can help their body to heal and recover – naps can help boost our immune system, and reduce inflammation in the body.
The National Sleep Foundation reported that a NASA study on military pilots and astronauts found that a 40 minutes nap improved their performance by 34% and their alertness by a staggering 100%. A 2019 study in the British Medical journal found that occasional napping may lower the risk of heart attack. We know that sleep deprivation can put the heart under pressure, so it makes sense that a quick sleep snack could be beneficial.
How can you take a good quality nap?
Try to create an optimal sleep environment for your nap – making it dark, quiet and cool will help you to switch off. When you wake up after a nap make sure you take it slowly, have a drink of water and give yourself time to come round before resuming your normal activities.
If you struggle to keep your nap short then there is a trick some people find helpful. If you drink coffee during the day then you can try drinking one before your nap. If you set an alarm for your nap time (20 mins for example), in theory you should wake up feeling refreshed as the caffeine kicks in.
When picking an alarm to wake you up, its best to try to find a sound that gradually builds in volume, this will wake you up more gently, so you are not waking up in a state of stress.
*If you suddenly start to need naps and nothing else has changed in your life, I advise speaking to your GP. It could be a sign of health condition, or perhaps a medication that is disrupting your night sleep.*
Do you need help to sleep better?
- Are you struggling to unwind and fall asleep?
- Do you wake in the night and struggle to get back to sleep?
- Do you wake up feeling tired and lack energy during the day?
- Do you feel like your job, relationship, mood or health are suffering as a result of poor sleep?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions then our online course for adult sleep issues can help. This course will help you really understand your sleep and how you can take positive steps in everyday life to improve your quality of sleep. You can find out more here ‘How To Sleep Better‘.
Want support with your child’s sleep?
If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a predictable routine and well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
These are designed to teach you all about how your child sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.
If you would prefer to speak with one of our consultants for a personalised plan you can find out more about our 1:1 packages here.