Is Napping GOOD For You?



Siesta enthusiasts may have had things right all along, according to Australian scientists.

Siesta enthusiasts may have had things right all along, according to Australian scientists.

You’ve heard it a dozen times (or more): if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, DON’T NAP.

The idea is that if you nap during the day, you’ll have even more trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, that night. Over time, this effect snowballs until your sleep schedule is entirely thrown off and even if your total numbers per night add up to at least eight hours, you’ll begin to suffer sleep deprivation effects.

But is this true for everyone? Two new Australian studies are saying: not necessarily.

It’s News…But it’s Not New

Reports that napping may be good for some people are making headlines, but the idea of more than one sleep session per day dates back thousands of years, anthropologists say.

In fact, two periods of sleep each day appear to have benefits to a significant segment of the population, including “two periods of increased activity, creativity and alertness across the day” v. steadily waning energy heading toward nighttime, according to researchers Melinda Jackson (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University) and Siobhan Banks (University of South Australia).

A power nap in the afternoon may also help increase memory, mood, concentration and may even boost learning, the researchers said.

The two scientists gave details of their preliminary findings and opinions in an article for The Conversation.

Power Napping Around the Globe

Of course, a number of groups around the world have practiced day napping since, as far as researchers can tell, the dawn of their cultures. And they seem to reap the benefits in ways that the rest of the globe could benefit from.

A few notable nappers include:

  • Spain and certain Spanish-speaking countries (siesta)
  • Italy (riposo)
  • areas of China (napping is considered a “constitutional right” in China!)
  • Greece
  • areas of the Middle East
  • some North African countries

Should You?

In the U.S. and other non-napping nations, napping could prove a problem, especially during work hours. Late afternoon appears to be the sweet spot for recharging one’s batteries via a cat nap – but in the United States, that’s prime time for finishing up a day’s work on a strong note.

On the other hand, particularly on the heels of telecommuting becoming at least a part of many people’s jobs, “split” work days could become common in the years to come.

Try this idea out on your boss – she just may have been thinking the same thing!

In the meantime:

How to Tell if You Need More Sleep

The studies did not seem to indicate that all individuals do well on a split sleep schedule. You may be a candidate for more sleep in your night OR a nap during the day to supplement your night’s sleep if:

  • you have difficulty waking up in the morning
  • you hit the snooze button on your alarm or phone more than once
  • you feel groggy during the day
  • you feel forgetful during the day
  • you find yourself nodding off while driving, or discover you’ve driven a number of miles but have no recollection of that distance’s drive
  • you feel irritable or cry easily during the day
  • you know you could nod off and nap during the afternoon if given the chance

Consult a sleep study specialist when in doubt, then experiment with the schedule that works best for you.