Remember when we were little and didn’t want to take naps? We were afraid of missing out on something good while sleeping. Now, as adults, about half of us would give up our Starbucks gold status for an afternoon nap, while the other half still thinks naps are an epic waste. Ever heard someone say, “You snooze, you lose”? Those people don’t nap.

Some people associate napping with being lazy or sick, but it’s just not true. What’s the latest nap news? Should naps be a vital part of our wellness routine? Do they help us catch up on sleep we missed while binge-watching an entire season of “Modern Family”? Or do they wreck our regular sleep cycle?

Why kids nap

To resolve the nap vs. no-nap debate, let’s start by understanding why we took naps when we were small. Adequate sleep is essential to children’s mental, physical, and emotional development.1 Daytime naps give little ones a chance to reset, which helps increase their alertness, focus, and coordination while reducing irritability—remember the pre-nap fussies? The positive effects of a nap are similar for adults too.

When grown-ups should nap

For adults, catching a little midday shut eye can help boost our productivity, creativity, concentration, reaction time, and mood. Some airports and libraries feature napping stations, complete with nap pods.2 In addition to consistent sleep at night, endurance athletes and many fitness enthusiasts swear by the daily nap.

While adult napping is largely a personal preference, here are a few occasions for anyone to cop a micro-snooze:

  1. The moment you feel sleepy while driving any kind of motor vehicle
  2. When planning an activity that will delay your regular bedtime (e.g., traveling, working late, etc.)
  3. To help with recovery from illness or injury
  4. After strenuous exercise such as a strength-building workout or three-hour bicycle ride
  5. On days when you feel exceptionally tired or foggy-headed

When not to nap

One in three adults in the United States doesn’t get enough rest because of a sleep-stealing health concern. In this case, napping is not the best way to catch up on nightly Z’s. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea can contribute to complications such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression. You’ll gain far more than a good night’s rest by working with your primary care physician to address and resolve apnea and other conditions.

How to nap

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to make the most of your down time:

  • Early afternoon—after lunch but before 3 p.m.—is an ideal nap time. It follows the lull that some people feel after eating and is early enough not to disrupt regular bedtime.
  • Keep the nap short; set an alarm for 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Settle down in a dark, quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure the temperature is cool and comfortable.
  • If you snore and are within earshot of other people, turn on a TV, music, or white noise app to mask the snoring. If sound bothers you, wear earplugs (disconnected earbuds or headphones can work in a pinch too).
  • When your nap alarm rings, get up. Resist the temptation to catch another 36 winks in nine-minute increments. Freshen yourself, take a quick walk, enjoy some tea and a handful of almonds, and get back to your day.
  • Don’t nap within four to six hours of bedtime because you might have trouble getting back to sleep. Stay busy until it’s time to go to bed.
  • Most important, commit to going to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends.

There you have it. Naps aren’t meant to replace the seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep recommended for adults every day, but they’re great when you need them.

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Sleep well!


1Parents Canada
2Nap Pods

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