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Nothing beats a good night of sleep. But seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night isn’t always possible. If you’re sleeping less than six hours a night, a midday nap can do a lot to make sure you aren’t going too far into sleep debt.
“Efficiency and productivity increase significantly when you’re well-rested,” says Sarah Hussain, MD, DSM, medical director of the Sleep Center at Sycamore Medical Center. “If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, the body will crave sleep, and you will need a nap.”
The power nap. If you have the opportunity to do so, Dr. Hussain recommends taking a 10- to 20-minute nap in the middle of the day for a burst of energy. This will also help increase your alertness and productivity.
The 30-minute nap. Napping for 30 minutes a day has been linked to an increase in stamina and creativity, and has been shown to improve motor skills, mood, and memory, according to Dr. Hussain. There are even studies that show this type of nap is beneficial for weight loss.
The long nap. Naps that last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes can also be useful.
“People tend to wake up with great ideas because it’s like a second morning,” Dr. Hussain says. “You go through rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep, so you wake up feeling much better.”
A normal sleep cycle consists of three stages: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. REM sleep is when the majority of dreams occur.
When setting your alarm, though, be aware that naps lasting 60 minutes or longer can lead to grogginess. They can also make it more difficult to get to bed on time.
Become a pro-napper. When taking an effective nap, duration isn’t the only factor to consider. Before lying down for a nap, check the clock.
“Basically, we have a dip in our circadian rhythm between 1 and 3 p.m., so it’s the best time to get a nap in,” Dr. Hussain says. “I tell my patients not to nap after 4 p.m., as this will make them have trouble falling asleep at bedtime.”
Make sure you’re in a dark, cool, and quiet environment for optimal rest. Dr. Hussain suggests earplugs and an eye mask for undisturbed sleep.
Though you may not mark your calendar for them, it’s not a bad idea to get naps in regularly. “Some studies have shown that people who nap three times per week have a 30% decrease in risk of dying from heart disease,” says Dr. Hussain.
To nap or not?
Not a napper? If falling asleep during the day is hard for you, but you’re still not getting the sleep you need at night, Dr. Hussain suggests taking some time to close your eyes and relax your mind. This can help your brain rest and make you feel recharged
Coffee ≠ nap It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can just power through what you’re doing with an extra cup of coffee, but this is actually detrimental to your health. “If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body need to rest, rejuvenate, and heal,” Dr. Hussain says.
Sleep deprivation can lead to comorbidities such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depression—so make sure you get enough sleep to avoid these problems.