To nap or not to nap? That is the question! When I was a child, my grandmother would take a 2 hour nap everyday right after dinner. At the age of six, I couldn’t understand why she would do that. After all, what for would you sleep during the day when you can sleep as long as you want every night? Puzzled, I asked my grandma about it and she replied, “When you take a nap after dinner, your body relaxes and digests food faster.”
Is it true, or is it false? Let’s take a look at ten common myths about napping and figure out how much truth is in them, shall we?
Myth 1: Every nap helps re-energise your mind and body
While it’s true that taking a nap can be re-energising, not every nap has the same effects on your body and your mind. Some naps are more beneficial than others. There are also those that can be harmful to your health.
According to research, taking a 10-min nap improves subjective and objective alertness, reduces fatigue, increases vigour, and improves performance. A 20-min nap is also beneficial, for it enhances cognitive performance as well as alertness. However, a 30-, 60-, or 120-min nap leads to sleep inertia. Thus, if your nap takes half an hour or more, upon waking, you will find it hard to think, focus and perform. Also, you will wake up confused, groggy, or sleepy.
Myth 2: Not everyone can fall asleep during the day
When it comes to napping, some people complain that they can never fall asleep during the day no matter how hard they try. If you’re one of those people, ask yourself one question: how come can you sleep at night? Think about it. We find it easy to fall asleep at night because:
- It’s dark, so our bodies start producing melatonin, which helps us to drop off,
- We’re tired, so sleep happens naturally, and, what’s the most important,
- Our body clock tells us that it’s time to sleep.
Now, every person’s body clock is timed differently depending on their lifestyle. Thus, if it’s easy for you to fall asleep at midnight and wake up at 8 a.m., you might find it hard to drop off one day at 10 p.m. because your body isn’t used to it. The same goes with napping. If you’re not used to napping, it can be hard for you to nap in the afternoon. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t teach yourself to nap. Also, remember, if you can’t fall asleep during the day, you can still have a great rest by meditating. The key idea is to get re-energised by eliminating all outside distractions.
Myth 3: Napping can cause weight gain
Neither sleeping at night nor napping in the afternoon can cause weight gain. It’s your lifestyle, genetics and pre-sleep habits that determine your ability to lose or gain weight. Now, since during sleep your heart rate, breathing, digestion as well as metabolism slow down, it’s unhealthy to nap earlier than two hours after a large meal. Otherwise, due to slower digestive process and lying position, you not only can gain weight, but also suffer from acidity. Thus, napping or sleeping right after a meal isn’t recommended.
Myth 4: Afternoon naps cause insomnia at night
If you take short 10- to 20-min naps in the afternoon, you shouldn’t find it hard to fall asleep at night. However, as far as having longer naps is concerned, sleeping more than 30 minutes close to your bedtime can have a negative impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. The resulting sleeplessness is due to the fact that your body isn’t tired enough to drop off again. So, if you like taking naps in the afternoon, make sure they’re short and not too late during the day.
Myth 5: You can catch up on sleep by napping
Napping and sleeping aren’t the same. Most sleepers pass through five stages of sleep, those are: light sleep, three phases of deep sleep, and REM sleep. Now, the most important part of the sleep cycle is the last phase – the REM sleep. During that phase, human body restores and heals itself. Most nappers, on the other hand, pass through first one or two stages of sleep. Thus, they don’t enter the restorative REM phase of the sleep cycle. What does it tell us? Well, it tells us that taking a nap won’t make you feel as refreshed, re-energised and well-rested as sleeping the whole night does. Also, while the effects of sleeping are long-lasting, the effects of napping are only temporary. So, you can neither catch up on nor substitute sleeping with napping. Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a day is important for your wellbeing.
Myth 6: Daytime naps are a complete waste of time
Did you notice that humans are one of the few monophasic sleepers (i.e. those that sleep once during 24 hours) in the animal kingdom? Most species of animals are either biphasic (i.e. sleep twice during 24 hours) or polyphasic sleepers (i.e. sleep 4-6 times during 24 hours). Perhaps our pets sleep during the day not because they’re bored, but because they have a good reason for it?
Research proves that napping has many positive effects on your body and your mind:
- It boosts immune system,
- Improves alertness,
- Helps to learn new skills,
- Enhances physical stamina,
- Improves memory.
Myth 7: Depression naps can help you deal with problems
Have you ever taken a depression nap? Many people believe that taking a depression nap can help you escape emotions, negativity, bad mood, and make you feel less exhausted. In reality, however, depression naps make your problems and feelings worse.
Once you take a depression nap, upon waking, you realise that your problems are still there. Naps are only a means to avoid facing them, and so, they won’t solve anything. Thus, depression naps aren’t the answer. Instead of helping you, they feed the major symptoms of depression: blame, shame, negative-self talk, restlessness, fatigue and inaction. If you suffer from and want to overcome seasonal depression, work depression or melancholia, don’t try depression naps. Remember, there are healthier ways to fight depression, for example, caring for a pet, spending time with your loved ones, doing sports or breaking away from your routine. Give them a try.
Myth 8: All preschool children have to nap
Since the duration and the quality of sleep has an impact on child’s development and health, doctors encourage parents, babysitters as well as preschool teachers to allow children to nap an hour or two in the afternoon. Mothers especially look forward to children afternoon naps, for they allow them for a moment of peace during the day. However, should all kids nap in the afternoon and is it really good for their health? Surprisingly, the answer is: no.
According to research, children beyond the age of two shouldn’t nap unless they feel tired. If they nap against they will, they can have problems with falling asleep at night and staying asleep until morning. Thus, remember, naps are good only when they are needed. If your child fights back every time you’re trying to make them go to bed, it means, they no longer need to take naps. By forcing them to sleep you’ll get yourself an extra hour of peace, but it can have a negative impact on your child’s development and health.
Should you take a nap now?
Having an afternoon nap is a wonderful way to re-energise your body and mind. However, not every nap is good for you. Remember, longer naps can make you feel groggy upon waking and naps right after dinner can lead to acid reflux. Thus, be smart when taking naps! Use the tips discussed above and make sure every nap you take is helpful, and not, hurtful to your health.
Emily Johnson is a blogger and a content strategist at OmniPapers. She’s also a bookworm and a dreamer. In her free time, she writes inspiring articles about personality psychology, creativity and how to sleep better. Feel free to follow Emily on Twitter.