Napping is a mid-day sleeping of less than an hour, during which the body experiences light sleep. Longer sleep periods during the day are called siestas. Most people confuse a nap with microsleep thinking they are the same but they are not. However, short afternoon naps are good for us.
Microsleep is unintentional brief (as little as a few seconds) of sleep. It often occurs in only some parts of the brain and usually unknown (not consciously intended) by the person. You did not plan to have microsleep. However, intentional naps are a preventative measure against microsleep.
Why You Feel Slumber During The Day
The afternoon dozing can be due to variety of factors. It ranges from a heavy lunch to sheer boredom. However, your body may also be signalling you to fall asleep. Your body temperature changes throughout the day. Its lowest point is in the morning just before waking and it rises during the day.
Mostly, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., your body naturally experiences a small dip in temperature. This signals the brain to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. This is a normal part of your sleep circle that helps explain why you feel sleepy in the afternoon.
Benefits of afternoon nap
Is napping good for you? When done correctly, the benefits of napping are numerous.
The neurotransmitter serotonin regulates our mood, sleep, and appetites. It produces feeling of contentment and well-being. But when our bodies are stressed, higher levels of serotonin are used and the production of more is blocked. As a result, we can become anxious, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed, and easily distracted.
Naps reduce your risk of heart disease
Naps can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially for males. A nap reduces the risk of heart problems such as hypertension and also lowers cholesterol. People who takes naps for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week, are less likely to die from heart disease. However, if you nap occasionally your risk reduces as well.
It reduces stress
Sleepiness is also linked with increased blood pressure and greater levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol. Therefore, reducing the tension caused by stress through napping is good for your body. Cortisol levels drop during a nap, suggesting that a nap can help reverse the effects of nighttime sleep loss on cortisol. Another study from Greece shows that those who took naps had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t. Daily naps reduce the amount of stress hormones in the body, decreasing stress and lowering risk of heart disease.
Naps improve mental performance
Research continues to show that daytime napping can improve mental performance in adults. Regular naps of less than 30 minutes can improve productivity and mental performance. Naps can help us remember things we just learned, but are they better than equivalent period of time awake relaxing or watching television? Yes, the time spent in napping is better for remembering than the time spent awake.
Naps help you remember
Longer sleep duration’s such as nighttime sleep are even better for memory than daytime naps. However, research shows that the gains in memory improvement occur in the first half of the night. A sleep period of 3.5 hours is pretty much as effective as a period of 7 hours. It’s not fully clear but sleep plays an important role in formation of long term memory. Memories are consolidated during sleep.
How napping affects sleep
All other things being equal, what is better: an afternoon nap or getting more sleep at night? There is no correct answer of course, but the addition of 30-45 minutes in nighttime sleep does not significantly affect measures of vigilance and daytime sleepiness the next afternoon.
Mid-day naps do improve performance on the psychomotor vigilance test. They make people less sleepy in the afternoon. Caffeinated beverages also help us over the mid-afternoon hump more than extra sleep at night, too.
The timing of the nap affects your sleep architecture. Morning naps and afternoon naps differ, with people tending to drift off faster in the afternoon for longer naps with more slow-wave deep sleep than morning naps.
Naps over 30 minutes usually bring post-nap inertia, though. If the sleeper goes into Stage 3, slow-wave sleep, it will be harder to wake up. The cognitive benefits of the longer naps last longer, too.
However, developing a habit of regularly taking long naps is associated with higher mortality rates, especially among the older population.
Can napping cause sleeplessness at night?
Although there is always a risk that daytime naps lead to nighttime sleeplessness, individuals can learn the specific needs and response of their bodies. Many people can nap in the daytime without nighttime problems.
Insomniacs, especially those attempting sleep restriction therapy, are discouraged from daytime napping because it could make it harder to sleep at night.
The link between insomnia and daytime napping is more prevalent among older adults, although the research is still conflicting on whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship. Retired people take a lot of naps because they have less structured days than younger people, but those of all ages can take naps.