Nap Time Its Not Just For The Kids

-By Brett Qualls, PT, DPT, OCS

Remember when I made the plan to get more sleep?  Unfortunately, this has not really been panning out.  The most decent alternative: naps!  Napping may sound like a juvenile alternative, but it is one that should not be discounted too quickly.  Napping, or a brief daytime sleep, has been found to have many benefits. 

In an effort to have full disclosure, I have and always will be a major aficionado of napping.  I really discovered the benefits to power napping while I was in graduate school. Napping has been my go to for a quick reset and a way to get an energy boost.  I still find myself finding ways to build a nap into my schedule today.

Napping truly does offer a variety of health and psychological benefits.  With nearly 85% of other mammals napping throughout the day, some would say that we are meant to be nappers.   The nap has been an area of study by many groups, including the National Sleep Foundation.  The National Sleep Foundation has termed three different variety of naps: planned naps, emergency naps (where you suddenly become tired and cannot continue) and habitual naps.  Habitual naps are those that are pre-planned and often occur at the same time daily.  The “nap time” sleeps taken by children are more in-line with the habitual nap practice.  Why does an adult suddenly lose the right to schedule a nap into their routine?

Taking naps is good for “cognitive” or brain function.  A study at Harvard university found that napping allowed participants to improved their performance on three out of four cognitive assessments.  This means napping helps your brain to work better!  Naps have also been found to increase alertness and to reduce mistakes.  There are some major employers that have found increased activity and work quality by allowing napping during the standard work day.

Napping also offers psychological benefits.  Taking a nap has been found to help a person to rejuvenate and relax.  Naps allow the person to check out and start anew after waking up.  Taking a nap allows you to wake up refreshed and hopefully ready to challenge the challenges of your day with a new perspective.  This type of napping is helpful to busy parents, stressed employees, and students that are feeling overburdened.  Taking a nap has also been found to improve your mood.  As much as we may deny it, we all have those times when we could you a little mood adjustment.  Why not just take a little nap to curb your grouch?

While I mentioned earlier that I am definitely on Team Nap, this is really sounding better and better all of the time!  The next big logical question: What is the best way to integrate napping into your routine?  The Mayo Clinic suggests that naps be kept brief.  A nap time duration of 10 to 30 minutes is suggested to reap maximum benefits without feeling groggy when waking up.  They further suggest that the best time to nap in in the mid-afternoon in a quiet dark place.  

While most of us would consider an afternoon nap to be a luxury, others would say that it is a simple practice that could be worth its weight in gold.  There appears to be some benefit for those that are able to make the time and have an environment to catch a quick snooze.  Now we just have to find a way to integrate habitat napping into our adult schedule.