An afternoon nap is a temptation you don't need to fight. 10-20 min power naps increase attention. 30-60 min slow-wave naps improve memory and decision making. REM 60-90 min naps ramp up problem solving. An hour’s nap works wonders for a child’s growth by saving energy. Power naps may just be what adults need to recharge. Anything longer may leave you feeling groggy.
In most cultures, an afternoon nap or siesta is par for the course. Traditionally these are at least 30 minutes or more of downtime. Many of us may not have the luxury of such sleep and may resort to quick 10–20 minute naps to power up and get back to work.
Is Catching A Quick Nap A Good Idea?
Granny wisdom says that the body sleeps because it needs the sleep. Research says the impact of an afternoon nap is primarily determined by its duration.1 Studies have observed the effects of an afternoon nap lasting about 10 minutes to ones that are about 40–60 minutes and really long ones for over 90 minutes. Each type of nap has a different effect on the body and the brain it turns out.2
The short 10–20 minute nap ‒ a power nap or stage 2 nap ‒ that we all feel like indulging in, whether at home or at work, is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing an instrument. Slightly longer naps of 30‒60 minutes – slow-wave sleep – is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing lessons or recalling directions. The long nap of 60–90 minutes, where you enter the REM (rapid eye movement or deep sleep) stage of the sleep cycle, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems.3
What About Kids And That Ubiquitous Afternoon Nap?
We always seem to be trying to get children to catch a nap in the afternoon. Apart from giving the parent some rest, is it doing them any good? Turns out, the answer is yes.
Napping allows the body to save energy, energy which is critical for the growth spurts that a child goes through. More sleep and more food are what helps children in such a phase. Any time after about 4 years of age, kids start to outgrow the afternoon naps and transit into a more adult schedule.4 It’s good to let little ones get some shut-eye in the afternoon, maybe about an hour maximum, which helps refresh them but without being groggy. And don’t worry as they start to outgrow daytime naps, it’s natural.
Should You Nap More As You Age?
A British study looked at folks at the other end of the age spectrum and came up with surprising results.5 An afternoon nap of more than an hour by older-age adults was associated with a 32% increase in mortality irrespective of gender, health conditions, and demographics. Frequent and long naps for the elderly are more detrimental than helpful it would seem. Long naps during the day unsettle the body. It thinks it is going to go into deep sleep and then finds that it is jolted awake after 60–90 minutes.
For young and middle-aged men and women, a power nap during the afternoon has been found to definitely enhance performance and learning ability.6
Ancient Ayurvedic literature speaks of afternoon naps being suitable for certain body types and gives allowance to all only during the summer season. So powering up with a quick 10 minute snooze, especially at work, is a good idea. It definitely refreshes the body and mind and improves your ability to do better work. Anything longer may just leave you with a groggy feeling when you wake up and make it difficult for you to sleep at night.
References [ + ]
|1, 3.||↑||Milner, Catherine E., and Kimberly A. Cote. “Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping.” Journal of sleep research 18, no. 2 (2009): 272-281.|
|2, 6.||↑||Dhand, Rajiv, and Harjyot Sohal. “Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.”Current opinion in pulmonary medicine 12, no. 6 (2006): 379-382.|
|4.||↑||Weissbluth, Marc. “Naps in children: 6 months-7 years.” Sleep 18, no. 2 (1995): 82-87.|
|5.||↑||Leng, Yue, Nick WJ Wainwright, Francesco P. Cappuccio, Paul G. Surtees, Shabina Hayat, Robert Luben, Carol Brayne, and Kay-Tee Khaw. “Daytime napping and the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a 13-year follow-up of a British population.” American journal of epidemiology 179, no. 9 (2014): 1115-1124.|