There are a number of benefits to napping when the nap is taken early enough in the day and the duration is limited. The ability to nap, however, may be decided by the social acceptability of the activity, its practicality, or the napper's biology.
Attitudes Toward Napping
In some countries, adults face long workdays that do not allow for nap time; however, in other countries, workers enjoy time off in the middle of the day during which a nap is considered normal. In nearly every culture, both children and the elderly are given the most latitude where napping is concerned. Although some cultures seem to allow for daily napping at any age, others frown upon such activity between the onset of adulthood and the age of retirement. In some cases, where co-sleeping or communal sleeping is common, napping may be more acceptable for all ages.
The Spanish tradition of siestas, afternoon naps, dates back thousands of years, according to "9 Sleep Habits From Around the World." It provided a time to eat a leisurely lunch and nap. As nothing is as simple as it first may seem, some countries like Spain now discourage napping while some companies in the United States promote it as a way to boost productivity. Researchers studying DNA of a large group of people recently identified "123 regions in the human genome that are associated with daytime napping." They found "daytime napping is biologically driven and not just an environmental or behavioral choice." The "Health Benefits of Napping" can include boosting memory and lifting your mood.
The Right Time and Timing of a Nap
Dr. Lawrence Kline, a specialist in internal, pulmonary, and sleep disorders medicine, has focused his practice on sleep apnea and breathing as the Director of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, California. He recommends any naps occur early in the afternoon and be limited in length to avoid interfering with falling asleep at night. To see more of Dr. Kline’s recommendations to have a great night’s sleep™, take a look at our interview.
The National Sleep Foundation identifies a number of benefits to napping including the restoration of alertness, enhancement of performance, and a reduction in mistakes and accidents. “A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep.”
Nap needs may change according to the need and between individuals. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., has identified a number of different naps to meet different needs, ranging from “The CEO Nap,” a short power nap in the mid-afternoon, to “The Nap-A-Latte” when you need a quick boost. Regardless of the type of nap you take, it is important that you find the right environment for your nap.
Setting the Stage for a Beneficial Nap
Even if napping is culturally commonplace, you are biologically wired to nap, and you plan to nap at the right time and place, lighting conditions can affect one's ability to rest. In some regions, winter conditions make napping easy since the days are short and light is sparse. Climates that are sunny year-round may make it more difficult to nap without blackout shades or a sleep mask. People in offices rarely nap because desks make for uncomfortable sleeping surfaces. However, Down Etc.’s Head Heaven® Travel Pillow or Pillowtogo™ Travel Pillow and Throw plus Down Etc.’s EyesDown™ Eye Masks can turn almost any spot into a great place to rest. We wish you a great night's sleep and a nap, if you need one!
Originally posted June 17, 2019. Updated information and links and reposted August 31, 2022.