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For Adults: To Nap or Not to Nap?

Setting aside enough time for sleep probably isn’t on your daily to-do list. Like many people, you may struggle for shut-eye. In fact, 3 out of 10 adults in the U.S. average 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night. Daytime napping may seem like a good way to recoup some of that lost slumber. But you may be dozing at your own risk.

Woman napping in hammock

The nitty-gritty about napping

Sleep is essential for your mind and body. It keeps you alert and focused. It helps cement memories. It may even boost your immune system, protecting you from illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Given the benefits sleep can impart, napping should be a no-brainer for better health, right? Unfortunately, the research has doled out mixed results. For instance, napping may relieve stress and improve alertness. It may also be good for your emotions. One study found napping may thwart negative feelings like frustration and impulsiveness.

But daytime napping may have a dark side. Some—but not all—past studies suggest napping may shorten your life. That may be especially true if you nap for more than 1 hour a day. One possible reason for this connection: People who nap more may have an undiagnosed health condition. Napping has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and depression. Or people who nap may simply not sleep well at night—a serious hex on your overall health.

Need some naptime?

More research is needed to fully decide if napping is a boon or a bust for your health. But it still may not be the best way to make up for lost slumber. Naps don’t give your body enough time in deep sleep. That’s the most restorative stage of sleeping.

Yet many people all over the world enjoy napping on a regular basis. For example, siestas are a daily ritual in Mediterranean countries. And experts recommend naps for people who work the nightshift, suffer from jet lag, or have narcolepsy—a sleep disorder that causes a person to fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly.

If you want to take a daytime nap, here are some tips that will help you better catch that extra shut-eye:

  • Limit your nap to 20 to 30 minutes. Longer naps can leave you groggy—a condition called sleep inertia. In such a state, you are more apt to make mistakes and have accidents shortly after awakening. But the grogginess usually doesn’t last longer than a half hour.

  • Don’t nap after 3 p.m. Naps later in the day may mess with your ability to fall asleep at night.

  • Nap in a sleep-friendly environment. Choose a quiet, comfortable place. Eliminate any bright lights, if possible. Like at bedtime, limit distractions by turning off your cell phone, computer, and television.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/12/2015
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.