Sleep Facts

Why Napping Is Healthy

Eli Ben-yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-yehuda

On June 24, 2019

I have never considered the health benefits of napping and I have never been much of a napper. Maybe, because as a child, every day my mom made me take a nap whether I was tired or not. But lately, I have a very full schedule. Working full time, studying at the local university, and caring for a family has left me washed up.

I work strange hours. I start work at 3:00 PM five days a week and finish at midnight. I am up at about 6:00 A.M every morning and study in the university from 7:00 A.M until 10:00. Like I said very full schedule.

And so my wife suggested that I start taking naps before work. At first, I was reluctant. Me take a nap? But in the end like most wives, she won out. But so did I. I have found that a nap has helped me with my workload and has helped me feel less stressed.

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3 Benefits of Napping

Health Benefit Number 1: Improved Daytime Alertness.

Daytime napping also appears to improve mental alertness and performance, according to a number of laboratory studies. However, researchers found that shorter naps were more effective than longer ones. The most effective time of them all was 10 minutes, which produced the best outcomes in all sleep measures including “subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance.” A 30-minute nap could produce the same effects but brought about “a period of impaired alertness.”

Health Benefit Number 2: Boosts Your Immune System.

Sleep deprivation—particularly repeated, chronic lack of sleep—takes a toll on your neuroendocrine and immune functions by increasing inflammatory molecules known as cytokines, as well as stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. A 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism took 11 healthy young men and restricted them to a night of only two hours of sleep.

Blood and urine tests measured higher cytokines and levels of norepinephrine in both groups after sleep deprivation. The following day, one group was given two half-hour naps, while the control group did not have any naps. Blood and urine samples of those who napped showed that their cytokines and norepinephrine levels had returned to normal, as though they had never lost a night of sleep.


Health Benefit Number 3: Napping For a Healthy Heart.

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Our hearts are on duty 24/7, so it makes sense that regular rest is a must for our trusty tickers.

A European Heart Journal medical report found that people short on sleep had an increased chance of dying from a stroke. Getting less than six hours of sleep each night can have serious health implications.

Better sleep habits—including rest during the day—will help keep your heart healthy and happy.

What’s the best way to take a nap?

To get the most out of a nap, follow these tips:

Keep naps short. Aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward. However, young adults might be able to tolerate longer naps.

Take naps in the early afternoon. Napping after 3 p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep. Individual factors, such as your need for sleep, your sleeping schedule, your age, and your medication use, also can play a role in determining the best time of day to nap.

Create a restful environment. Nap in a quiet, dark place with a comfortable room temperature and few distractions.

After napping, give yourself time to wake up before resuming activities — particularly those that require a quick or sharp response.

As a nation, the United States appears to be becoming more and more sleep deprived. And it may be our busy lifestyle that keeps us from napping. While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance. Nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap.

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Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda
With a passion for health advocacy Eli researches and writes many articles concerning improving the lives of people diagnosed with high blood pressure and the complication they experience. He believes educating people is the best way to improve their overall health.

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