When even the most venti caffeine concoction isn’t cutting it, sneaking in a quick catnap might seem like the best way to recharge.
But could that midday snooze be throwing your whole nighttime sleep cycle out of whack? Let’s see what the science says about napping and nighttime sleep.
Does napping affect your evening snooze?
- Naps for healthy adults can be beneficial for some.
- Excessive or extra-long naps can disrupt your regular sleep cycle.
- Finding that timing sweet spot is key.
Need sleep? There’s a nap for that. Research suggests napping can give some much-needed perks, including improved mood and alertness throughout the day. But how does napping differ from a regular night’s sleep?
A full sleep cycle usually takes around 90 to 110 minutes and cycles between 5 stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) and REM sleep (or, lighter and deeper sleep).
When you sleep for shorter periods of time, you may only enter the first couple of stages which can give you a mental boost while avoiding that feeling of grogginess when you wake up.
Children benefit from naps in a number of ways. But studies show that even in younger, healthy adults, those lighter stages of sleep are positively associated with better memory function and both stress relief and better immune function.
Some benefits of some quick vitamin Zzz’s include:
- better cognitive performance
- better productivity
- some improved memory function
- lower blood pressure
- better mood
What’s the trick to sneaking in that midday snooze without busting up your nighttime sleep? It all comes down to how long you hit the pillow.
Too much hardcore napping is pretty dependent on what you’re used to and your own health and habits. But generally speaking, naps over 20 minutes in length can affect what’s called sleep inertia.
Sleep inertia can happen when you’ve delved too deeply into those deep sleep stages and your body thinks you’re calling it a day for a full night of 40 winks but is woken up. You know, like when you wake up from a 2-hour nap and forget what day it is and who you are. You’ve seen the memes.
A 2015 review of studies also found that long daytime naps were associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The goal of a daytime kip should be to give you a bit of rest without taking you deep into sleep. Your body shouldn’t think it’s headed for 8 hours or it will begin to claw you right down into dreamland.
A bunch of factors affect how a nap affects your sleep cycle:
- the quality of the nighttime sleep
- the duration of the nap
- how often you nap
- the timing of the nap during the day
- your age and general health
- any current sleep issues such as regular insomnia
Generally speaking, most healthy adults can test out power naps of 10 to 20 minutes. If you find that a quick 20 minutes during the early afternoon keeps away that afternoon fog and that you still sleep well at night, it can work for you.
Napping later in the afternoon and evening tends to be more likely to cause issues, so keep your quick nap to the earlier hours away from your usual bedtime.
If you find your eyes glazing over after lunch, a quick siesta (or coffee nap) of less than 20 minutes can revive you for an afternoon full of Zoom meetings or whatever you’ve got going on.
Just make sure to monitor how those naps affect your regular sleep schedule. If you start to toss and turn more, consider skipping the nap.
Talk with your doctor about any issues with sleep such as consistent sleepiness during your waking hours or issues with insomnia. Sleep is too important to muck around with.