Spring has sprung, and we are replacing our winter’s rest with renewed energy and activity. So why am I thinking about naps? Turns out I didn’t sleep well last night, and I thought a short afternoon nap might restore my sleep deficit. But is that true?
When I think of napping, a couple of associations come to mind. There’s the correlation to laziness, one of the “Seven Deadly Sins.” In contrast, I imagine a peaceful catnap in a hammock shaded by several oak trees, funneling a summer breeze my way. My mind also conjures the image of a comfy nap on the sofa after a robust Sunday lunch.
I’m not alone in favoring the positive associations to catching a few afternoon ZZZs. In fact, many cultures embrace a midday rest. The Spanish have “siesta” and the Italians call their afternoon break “riposo.” The hard-working Japanese practice “inemuri” or “mini naps” when possible. In China, an afternoon nap or “wǔshuì” is the norm. And most are familiar with the term “power nap.”
Turns out history holds a record of famous nappers from ancient times to our days. The list includes Aristotle, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan, and Bill Clinton, among others.
That’s an impressive list, so it would seem there are benefits to be had. Yet, it was difficult to find a consensus of opinion with regard to napping for older adults. There’s actually a bit of controversy on the subject. But at a minimum, most agree that a short nap now and then is ok.
Some sleep data suggests that a short afternoon nap may benefit the brain in older adults. There were various definitions of a short nap, but the time frame generally ranged from 20 to 40 minutes or 30 to 90 minutes. Bottom line, the shorter the better. Brief naps were generally found to be restorative and to provide a boost to memory and cognition.
It is thought that longer naps may interfere with cognition, the ability to think, and memory. They may also be associated with a higher risk of developing medical conditions such as diabetes, depression, heart disease or dementia. Longer naps can also create temporary grogginess and the inability to sleep well at night.
Regardless of age, most of us need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to give our bodies sufficient time to rest, repair and take out the garbage. That said, aging does impact the structure and quality of our sleep. After about age 60, it is reported we have less deep (slow-wave) sleep and more rapid sleep cycles. We are prone to awaken more often, and we sleep an average of two hours less a night than our younger selves.
These changes can be challenging and may create the need for a brief daily nap to help make up our sleep debt. Of course, that is provided there are no underlying medical conditions that require a doctor’s attention. Also, provided that our bodies respond well to napping.
Should you indulge in napping, below are some napping tips discussed in an article found at Harvard Health Publishing:
In summary, the best advice seems to land in doing everything possible to ensure a good night’s sleep to help eliminate or reduce the need for daytime napping. That said, a catnap here and there is not necessarily a bad thing and may even be good for you. You will be the ultimate judge of whether napping is right for you!
Please join in the conversation. Do you nap on the regular? If so, how long are your naps, how often do you take them, and how do they benefit you?
Tags How to Sleep Better