Is Napping Healthy?


| 5 Comments

Napping is one of my favorite activities, but is it actually healthy?  After every day of school in high school, I would take a short nap when I arrived home.  Is this a habit I should have kicked when I first started college three years ago?

 

According to William Anthony, PhD at Boston University, napping is something everyone should do.  He says it will help your mind because most people's bodies are sleep deprived.  Anthony references a study in which 11 men's sleeping habits were observed.  These men all slept for at least four straight hours at least six nights a week.  Furthermore, they showed signs of health problems like diabetes.  According to the Henry Ford Hospital's Sleep Disorder and Research Center, a nap was beneficial in helping the health of these men.  In other words, naps were helpful for people who were getting inefficient sleep.

 

This study struck a few red flags with me.  First, there were not nearly enough participants in the study to prove any sort of casual link.  There is barely enough information to show a correlation.  Second, reverse causation could be a factor in this observational study.  Maybe the naps that these men are taking are causing insufficient sleep at night.  To help with these two problems, I would design this study a little differently.  I would conduct a control group of people who didn't nap to compare to the participants who did nap.  Also, I would use many more participants in this study in the hopes of collecting more meaningful results.

 

However, Anthony later admits that napping isn't for everyone.  He says that people with insomnia or depression will not benefit from napping.  Napping throws off your cardiac rhythm or internal clock.  This makes sense because your body gets used to going to bed at night and waking up in the morning.  Therefore, napping is almost tricking your body into thinking it's nighttime when it's really mid-afternoon.

 

So should the average college student take naps?  According to higheredmorning.com, taking 20-30 minutes naps between the hours of 10am-11am or 2pm-4pm can lead to increased productivity and concentration.  These naps act as a little relaxing time for your hard-working brain.  I think it is also important to note that these naps are fairly short.  Therefore, it won't be throwing off your body's natural clock or affecting your sleep at night.  After this research, I'm still going to be taking my beloved naps but make sure to keep them short and concentrated.

 

Sources:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50785

http://www.higheredmorning.com/college-to-students-take-a-nap

5 Comments

I am probably different from a lot of college students in that I do not nap at all. Growing up, I was never much of a nap person, I always thought it would throw off my whole sleeping pattern. I never have had a probably sleeping at night, so I always would just try to push through the entire day, no matter how tired I am, so I would get a good night's sleep. I also find this studied that you described pretty flawed, but it is somewhat of a start. As you have described, there definitely needs to be more participants to get a greater understanding as to if there really are health benefits to napping. Did the research you found say anything about if there was a difference when it came to men and women napping? The study you described only observed men, so it would be interesting to see if women or other factors like age had an effect on health. Personally, I just think there are too many outside factors that would go into if napping proved to be healthy. For one, daily routines would need to be taken into consideration because everyone goes through different amounts of activities and to greater extremes than others. Maybe there are some people who really need a nap more than others and it would help them more than say a regular individual who worked a morning shift and decided to nap mid afternoon without doing anything too difficult. Do you also think that napping could be more beneficial to individuals who are still in the process of growing? Sleep is always stressed to students for instance, and I think it would be interesting to see if napping for students had a positive effect on their grades and overall alertness when they are in class.

While this article is a little outdated, it discusses the idea of power napping helping test results. I think further studies on this topic could enlighten students today as to maybe changing up their daily routine to help them in the long run.

I absolutely LOVE naps. My problem, however, is that I can never take just a 20 or 30 minute nap during the day. Mine always end of being at least an hour and a half (sometimes two) hours long, and I always wake up feeling groggy, sluggish, and even more tired than I was before my nap. I actually found this study that found that while short naps may increase productivity, long naps may lead to sleep inertia. This definitely explains why I feel so groggy and cranky after taking a long nap. It's strange, you would think that the longer the nap, the more you sleep, the better, right? I wonder what scientific explanation there is that causes short naps to give you more energy than long naps.
I also have never had trouble going to sleep at my regular bed time on days where I took long naps. I wonder why that is? Maybe I'm just sleep-deprived.

In high school I was never much of a napper unless I was sick. But since I have arrived at college, I have been taking naps a bit more frequently. If I ever get back from a morning class feeling tired, I will take about an hour long nap. However, sometimes when I wake up from my nap I will not feel any less tired. Your suggestion about napping from 10-11 or 2-4 is probably the reason for this, as my aforementioned naps will usually take place from 12-1. I will definitely be conscious of what time it is next time I decide I need a nap. I have also noticed that the shorter my nap is, the more energy I have. I feel like this is because longer naps allow you to fall into a deeper sleep, making it harder to wake up and leaving you just as tired as before the nap. I will also be more aware of how long I am napping for, as quick naps definitely leave me with more energy than longer ones do.

It is funny that I came across this article right when I did because I actually just woke up from a two hour nap... Apparently that isn't as good as i had hoped. I always thought napping was essential because it helped me get through the night and not concentrate on how tired I was. Last night I didn't get much sleep so I hoped napping would make up for that. I do feel sort of refreshed now but when I think about it, it might throw off my body clock just a little. It is interesting that you say one should nap only for half an hour, I never thought that would be enough to make a difference. But your article inspired me to do some research of my own and I found an article on MSN (http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/sleep/is-napping-helpful-or-harmful-1) that says that taking a short 45 minute nap can be beneficial in many ways. It seems to reduce blood pressure and reduces your risk of death in cardiovascular ways. But this is only if you sleep a good amount during the night. If you have insomnia, naps will reduce your chance of sleeping through the night thus making your insomnia evermore present. I think naps are beneficial in teenagers especially. All throughout high school my friends and I complained that we didn't have a nap time because we were all so tired all the time. If we did, we wouldn't have spent so much time thinking about it and would have concentrated more on school and the class we were in at the time. I still think napping is beneficial because it helps you be energized later in the day.

I just finished commenting on a blog about sleeping at night and our internal clocks. I can see why napping too long would throw off our internal clock. This puts us in that deep sleep, only to be rudely awakened shortly after, leaving many groggy and cranky. I had learned briefly about sleep stages in my high school pysch class but I googled them to brush up. Stage 1 is a light sleep, a transition from wakefulness and sleep, probably what I experience in long classes. This stage lasts only 5-10 minutes and if you awake you may not even feel as if you were asleep. Stage 2 is what I would consider the "beneficial short-nap stage." It lasts 20 minutes. Your body temp and heart rate begins to lower. Stage 3 is the transition from a light sleep to a deep sleep. This is the danger zone for napping. Stage 4 is officially a deep sleep. If you are napping, there is no turning back. When you finally awake you will most likely feel groggy because you have passed the light sleep stage. Finally, stage 5 or REM sleep when dreaming occurs. This is when you're really doomed if you plan on waking up shortly. Interesting enough the sequence of sleep stages do not go in order. The order being 1 into 2, 3 and 4, then 3 and 2 are repeated before entering 5 or REM.

A fun fact for those who nap religiously:
A Google recruiter said yesterday that Google has added napping into employee's work days. A study done by Sara Mednick, lead researcher on the NIMH study and author of Take A Nap! Change Your Life shows that caffeine users perform far worse than those who take short naps around thee or four o'clock in the afternoon, the time most people begin feeling tired. So, nap lovers, enjoy!

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