IT’S 3pm and you’re flagging. So much so that your eyelids feel increasingly heavy as you try your hardest to keep your eyes open and focus on work.
But, it feels impossible to stay awake. A quick doze could sort you out though…
Thought naps were a no-go? Think again!
A nap can help you with energy and productivity, plus, it doesn't have to disrupt your main sleep at night.
Dr Tim Bond is a chemist and natural health expert at Dragonfly CBD. He says there’s a lot of debate about the value or otherwise of napping.
“In my view, in young, healthy people a nap is no bad thing, especially if it’s done correctly.
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“As long as you don’t do it as a substitute for a good night’s sleep, it can help your mental and physical wellbeing.”
Here’s how to nail your nap…
The benefits of a nap
Apart from giving your tired mind and body a quick hit of relief, Dr Bond says: “A short nap will improve your focus, alertness, concentration, mood, productivity and creativity.
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“A nap can improve activity in the brain’s right hemisphere, the area of the brain that governs creativity and insight.”
He adds that naps can also embed newly learned information in the brain and improve memory recall.
Plus, if you’re hoping to swot up on your French, a quick snooze could help.
“A nap has been shown to consolidate learning, including language learning, which appears to be linked with restoration of hippocampal activity in the brain.
“In people who have a nap, concentration is as high as it is in the morning, while people who don’t nap experience a decline.
“A nap can also boost mood, reduce stress and strengthen the immune system in people who are sleep deprived.”
Nap for 20 minutes or 90 minutes
There’s a fine line when it comes to napping.
“A nap of less than 20 minutes will wake you before you enter deep slow wave sleep, will avoid post sleep grogginess and mental sluggishness and should energise you and keep you alert for the next few hours,” explains Dr Bond.
However, he explains that a nap of 90 minutes will take you through a complete sleep cycle from light sleep to deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and back to light sleep again.
“This will also energise you for the rest of the day.
“However, most of us don’t have the time for a 90 minute day time sleep and if you sleep that much during the day, it can be a sign that you are sleep deprived at night.
“Napping is detrimental if it interferes with nightly sleep and/or it interferes with your ability to stick to a consistent night time sleep routine.”
Time it right
“The best time to nap is around seven hours (or about six to eight hours) after you wake for the day,” says Dr Bond.
“This is because this is the time when the ideal balance of REM sleep and slow wave sleep can more likely be achieved.”
Timing your nap right can provide both physical and mental restoration and minimises post-nap grogginess.
Beat the post nap grogginess
You might find that post-nap, you awake feeling even worse. But a ‘caffeine nap’ can help.
“The best way to take a ‘caffeine’ nap is to have a tea or coffee just before falling asleep for 15 to 20 minutes as its effects on alertness take a little time to kick in,” says Dr Bond.
He says that a nap where tea or coffee has been drunk beforehand, could actually boost energy levels more than a caffeine drink alone or just a nap alone.
“Some research shows that caffeine boosts energy levels because of its effect on adenosine, a chemical that promotes sleep.
“When you feel tired, adenosine levels in your blood increase and when you fall asleep adenosine levels fall.
“Caffeine competes with adenosine for cell receptors in the brain and prevents adenosine from reaching the brain.
“Also as you fall asleep for your nap, adenosine levels fall anyway and caffeine then has less competition for cell receptors in the brain.
“So a short nap may enhance the effects of caffeine by increasing the availability of caffeine receptors in the brain.”
Can you nap too much?
In short, the answer is yes.
“There is a ‘nap paradox’ in that if naps are poorly timed or you sleep excessively during the day, a nap can have negative outcomes,” says Dr Bond.
“Excessive napping can interfere with night time sleep leading to insomnia, and it can disrupt healthy circadian rhythms, which are crucial to sleep and waking,” he adds.
Plus, excessive sleep can also interfere with mood.
“Naps can be powerful tools for athletes, improving performance, speed, strength and reaction time but excessive daytime sleeping can prejudice physical performance.”
He adds: “Excessive napping has been linked to negative health outcomes particularly in older people and this may be linked to increased inflammation and reduced immune function, both of which may be a feature of excessive napping in this population, but they may also be present with or without napping.”
Do we need a nap if our sleep is adequate?
“Naps are most beneficial in people who have a good night’s sleep,” says Dr Bond.
“If you don’t sleep well at night, a daytime nap is not going to make up for it.
“But it is important to ask yourself why you want a nap.
“If you spend a lot of the day feeling sleepy this may be due to insomnia at night and it can also be driven by stress,” he adds.
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Dr Bond does warn it’s important to still prioritise a good night’s sleep.
“Be sure to have a good bedtime routine; avoiding screens, caffeine and excessive alcohol a couple of hours before bed.”
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