We've all been there, felt a little sleepy in the middle of the day, no one's around, and nothing essential needs to be done. The scenario seems like the perfect time to take a nice power nap.
A dip in your alertness is typical in the early afternoon; a short nap is an easy way to relieve some of your sleepiness to give you that extra boost to endure the rest of the day.
While we all know an afternoon nap can give us a relaxed feeling, there are other things that we can consider to determine if napping is indeed right for you.
Why do people take naps?
Many people take naps for different reasons - the most common one is to make up for the lack of nighttime sleep.
People who don't get enough sleep (albeit with good sleep quality) at night have a higher tendency to feel grogginess during the day; daytime napping is our body's natural response to regain energy.
For some individuals, taking long naps is a relaxing way of killing boredom or passing the time.
As with the case of young children, on the other hand - napping is an essential part of their growth process as they require more hours of sleep than older adults.
What can napping do for your body?
The most common effect of napping on your body is it alleviates the feeling of sleepiness. Especially when you need a bit of an alertness boost, resting your brain for a few minutes can be an effective way of getting a restart.
Individuals experiencing a lot of pressure and stress can also benefit from a quick snooze. Taking a quick nap is known to be an effective way of releasing some tension, as well as getting yourself to a better mood.
Taking a quick nap is also reported to aid in brain function. Nappers experience improved memory and recall, better problem solving, and a generally bright and organized mind after power naps.
Napping is also proven to have significant health benefits. Recent studies show that those who nap a few times a week have a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who don't nap at all.
Generally speaking, the relaxation brought about by a good rest allows you to lower your blood pressure, especially in moments of stress.
Is there anything negative about napping?
The benefits of napping easily outweigh the negative aspects of it. While there is no harm in taking a quick shut-eye in the afternoon, having a bit too much of it may not reap the same benefits.
If you remember the sleep cycle, naps occur during the early phase - light sleep. Napping for too long may lead your brain to an ineffective amount of deep sleep, causing sleep inertia.
Sleep inertia is the groggy feeling a person gets when awakened during deep sleep or the REM phase.
Nappers who experience sleep inertia wake up feeling more tired than before they napped, sometimes feeling light-headed and disoriented.
For adults that nap excessively - reaching lengths of over an hour a day, some health problems can be imminent. Some studies show that those who nap too much have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Will napping affect my nighttime sleep?
People living with insomnia and sleep problems suffer from more mediocre sleep quality when they nap during the day.
Chronic insomnia patients tend to attempt to catch up on lost hours of nighttime sleep during daytime naps, but this has been proven to be counterintuitive.
Taking long naps during the day to catch up on zzzs may sound like a good plan, but this only further aggravates the body's natural circadian rhythm.
For persons experiencing sleep problems at night, napping during the day does not accurately solve the problem.
Sleep specialists would often recommend sleep deprivation during the day to create better sleeping habits for chronic insomniacs.
How long do I have to nap?
Most adults are advised to keep naps short. A 10 to 20-minute nap provides the most benefits for alertness among adults.
Having a quick nap in a pleasant sleeping environment tends to give the most positive effects on alertness and the general good feeling from resting.
If you have more than that time to spare, lounging and relaxing for a few extra minutes further relaxes the body and relieves more tension and stress.
When is the best time to nap?
Since the brain naturally dips in alertness during the early afternoon, this is the most optimal time to set your napping schedule.
In some countries, napping is actually a part of national culture. For example, Spanish people practice Siesta - a period of rest that usually occurs after lunchtime.
Taking a nap in the later parts of the afternoon may be detrimental to your sleep quality at night. It's best to avoid dozing off after 3 in the afternoon.
It is undeniable that napping leads to a lot of physical and mental benefits. Likewise, napping can help you experience better moods and general wellbeing.
There might be some drawbacks to napping for too long - but the benefits of napping can clearly place you in a better state.
As with everything, striking a balance is key. A nap for the right amount of time during the right time of day would help you get the most out of napping.
But don't let us stop you. If you need that power nap, go get it!