Napping, Benefits and Tips

Napping, Benefits and Tips
18.12.2023
  • A midday nap can enhance alertness, mood, memory, and reduce stress.
  • Choose a comfortable, quiet spot and time your naps well to avoid grogginess.
  • The ideal nap length, between 20 and 30 minutes, should help you wake up feeling refreshed without falling into deep sleep.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness may indicate a sleep disorder and should be evaluated by a professional.

A nap is a short period of sleep that usually occurs during the day. For many adults, naps can help to maintain alertness or overcome daytime fatigue.

Nap needs and the benefits of napping can vary among individuals. Knowing the facts about napping can help determine whether to take naps, and tips for better naps can enable healthier napping habits.

Benefits of Naps 

Naps can deliver a number of benefits. Brief naps can be restorative and reduce fatigue during the day. After a night of insufficient sleep, a nap may counteract daytime drowsiness More than 2 million healthcare providers around the world choose UpToDate to help make appropriate care decisions and drive better health outcomes. UpToDate delivers evidence-based clinical decision support that is clear, actionable, and rich with real-world insights. Naps can be particularly beneficial for shift workers who struggle to get enough sleep and have to be alert at irregular times. 

A short daytime snooze may also boost workplace performance The NHLBI is the nation’s leader in the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. A nap can improve cognitive functions such as memory, logical reasoning, and the ability to complete complex tasks. 

Some studies have found that physical performance can also improve after napping The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. Athletes may experience improved endurance, reaction times, and cognitive performance if they take a daytime nap.

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Napping may provide other health benefits. One observational study found that napping one or two times a week was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular problems The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information, such as heart attack, stroke, or heart disease. However, more research is needed to understand the complex ways that the frequency and duration of naps affect heart health. 

Napping may also reduce the impacts of insufficient sleep. For example, a small trial found evidence that naps relieved stress The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information and supported the immune system in people whose sleep was limited the night before. 

Additionally, naps may contribute to the well-being of specific groups of people. For instance, a study of people diagnosed with intracranial aneurysms found that regularly napping was associated with a lowered risk of a rupture The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information of the aneurysm.

What Are the Drawbacks of Napping? 

Although there are a variety of benefits to napping, naps may have drawbacks for certain people. For example, for older adults, napping during the day is associated with self-reported sleep problems such as waking up frequently during the night. 

Napping may have other negative health impacts. One study in China found that napping for more than 90 minutes was associated with high blood pressure The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information in middle-aged and older women. Another study of older Chinese people found that taking naps longer than 30 minutes was correlated with a higher frequency of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information.

An analysis of multiple studies found that napping for more than 60 minutes a day was associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. Another large study of people living in France found napping to be more common The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information in people living with anxiety or depression, obesity, high blood pressure, and type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

To date, it is not clear how exactly naps affect health. Much remains unknown about the relationship between naps and nighttime sleep, and how the frequency or length of naps influences well-being for different people. 

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How Sleep Works During Nap Time

Whether at night or during the day, sleep unfolds in a series of stages that make up a sleep cycle. 

  • Stage 1: Stage 1 is the lightest and briefest stage of sleep, lasting only one to seven minutes. 
  • Stage 2: Stage 2 follows stage 1 and lasts about 10 to 25 minutes. During stage 2 sleep, the muscles relax, and body functions slow. However, sleep in this stage is still relatively light. 
  • Stage 3: Stage 3 is a deeper, more restorative stage of sleep, and it can be difficult to wake up while in this stage. Stage 3 usually lasts between 20 and 40 minutes. 
  • Rapid eye movement (REM): During REM sleep, the body’s muscles are temporarily paralyzed, and the eyes move quickly under closed eyelids. Dreaming tends to take place during REM sleep. 

When sleep periods last several hours, the body cycles through these stages several times. During a nap, though, there is not enough time to go through multiple sleep cycles. 

In fact, during a short nap, a person may not be asleep long enough to spend much, if any, time in stage 3 or REM sleep. This can actually make it easier to wake up refreshed from a quick nap. 

Longer naps, such as those lasting more than 30 minutes, can cause the sleeper to enter deep sleep, and deep sleep may start even sooner in people who are sleep deprived. Grogginess often results from being woken up during deep sleep.

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