There seems to be no agreement across the board when it comes to naps. Everyone has their own opinion, based either on something they heard or personal experience. Theories vary across the continents; from country to country and culture to culture. Americans seem to be split on the issue (don’t look so surprised).
So how can we be sure our sleep structure is best? The National Sleep Foundation points out that 85% of mammals sleep multiple times a day, yet most humans only sleep once each day. Of course we’re different from most mammals in plenty of great ways, so this could suggest sleeping once a day is beneficial.
For the most part, the reason behind all this is ambiguity is because sleep routines, including naps, vary from person to person.
Napping doesn’t equal laziness, even if it may often be a byproduct of laziness. In fact, studies have shown that people who sleep more earn more. Whether that means a full 8 hours every night or taking an occasional nap when needed, it’s likely that you’ll get better results and be in a better mood each day when you get a good amount of quality zzz’s each night.
Think of it like this: if you’re energetic and lively for the majority of a 15-16 hour wake period, you’ll probably get more accomplished than if you’re awake for 18 hours and dragging through most of them. Whether or not that means sleeping more at night or taking a short nap every day is where the real debate lies.
To a large extent, the effectiveness of naps does come down to individual preference and experience. However, there are numerous factors that play into whether or not you should take naps, and how frequently you should take them.
The first thing to keep in mind is that naps shouldn’t be viewed as a healthy alternative to a good night’s rest. Naps should supplement a regular sleep routine of at least 6-7 hours each night, or be taken in the irregular case of fatigue, such as an unexpected (and hopefully out-of-the-ordinary) shortage of sleep the night before or intense physical exertion.
Of course, there may be things making you tired that a nap won’t fix. Diet, exercise, medication, and caffeine consumption all factor into tiredness, and poor management of any of these can result in chronic fatigue. A quick little catnap is often viewed as a quick fix, but the reality is that it won’t actually do so much to help.
The tricky part about a so called “catnap” that lasts about 20-30 minutes is that you can fall into a deeper from of sleep in just half an hour, sometimes even less than that. So if you don’t time your catnap perfectly (and it’s difficult to gauge exactly what that sweet spot is day to day), it’s possible that you will slip into a deep sleep before waking up, which means that you’ll interrupt your sleep cycle at a bad time and feel even more tired than you did before you decided to take a nap! Keeping your nap under 20 minutes is a good way to avoid this, but that can be difficult to do when factoring in the time it takes to actually fall asleep.
You can schedule your nap in two different ways. On the one hand, you can plan ahead to take a nap at a scheduled time in anticipation of a lack of sleep. For example, you only got 4 hours of sleep the night before, so you pick a free hour in your day to get some much needed rest. Or perhaps you want to be alert in advance of a busy night, so you take a longer nap in the late afternoon. That way, when nighttime rolls around, your body will have extra energy stored up from earlier in the day.
However, plenty of people schedule naps every day. No different than a meal or morning coffee, they rarely go a day without it. There is no shortage of success stories from people that use this method of napping to stay at their best each day. Of course, doing so requires a schedule that is conducive to your lifestyle, since, once your body gets used to taking a nap every day, it will expect and anticipate them. Forming this habit can be easy, however breaking it will prove much more challenging.
Regardless of when you choose to take your naps, or if you choose to take them at all, be mindful of the habits you may be forming and that many different factors contribute to daily energy levels.
Regardless of whether or not you’re big on napping, one habit that is totally worth picking up is having a bit of reBloom before hitting the hay. Just one bottle and you’re sure to be on your way to your best sleep in no time!