We all know what sleep deprivation does to you. Even just one sleepless night can leave you feeling tired, irritated, and fuzzy-headed. A power nap can save the day for many of us in such a situation. But is napping during the day a good idea? Let’s take a look at some of the major pros and cons of napping to figure out if you should have that midday snooze or power through the day, no matter how sleepy, and groggy you may be feeling.
The Advantages of Napping
Research has found that napping can offer some real-time benefits. These include:
- Reduced Fatigue
The most obvious (and expected) benefit of a nap is that it can help relieve fatigue due to lack of sleep and leave you feeling fresh and more energized.
- Improved Memory and Performance
According to Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program, the University of Arizona, brief periods of shut-eye during the day can help improve memory and also give you a performance boost (source: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/07/22/enjoy-your-nap-but-be-aware-of-the-pros-and-cons).
- Stress Relief
Lack of sleep can lead to higher frustration, stress, anxiety, and depression. When you’re running on too little sleep, your body is in distress and releases more cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol levels are found to be higher later in the day when they should actually be decreasing to prepare the body for the night’s sleep. This makes it harder to fall asleep, creating a cycle of sleep deprivation and stress.
Napping can help prevent this cycle by allowing your stressed body to relax and calm down by lowering those cortisol levels.
The Potential Disadvantages of Napping
Naps are great, but they may not work for everyone for several reasons. However, the longer duration of naps and wrong timings are most often the culprit. Here’s what a long midday snooze can do to you:
- It Makes You Feel Groggy
As strange as it may sound, it’s actually true that long naps can make you feel even more tired. And there’s a science to it. Experts say that this happens because you enter the deep sleep state when you take long naps. And when you wake up before that cycle is completed, you end up feeling more tired and groggy.
- It Can Keep You Awake at Night
Napping for too long and/or at the wrong time, i.e. much later in the day, can make it difficult to fall asleep at your usual bedtime. Even when you do fall asleep, you may have a restless sleep. This will leave you all the more tired and exhausted the next day.
What’s the Verdict? Should You Nap or Not?
Midday power naps can certainly offer a range of benefits. Many researchers even compare the benefits of power naps to that of coffee. Both provide a quick dose of energy and freshness and leave you more alert, active, and focused.
However, the key to getting these benefits is to keep your naps short, ideally between 15 to 45 minutes. Long naps can do you more harm than good and leave you feeling more tired and groggy. So, take naps if you feel the need for them, but time them well and make sure you nap in a peaceful environment, on a comfy bed, to get the most out of your midday snooze.