Have you ever felt like taking a nap right after lunch hour? I’m pretty sure all of you know what I’m talking about. It’s been a hectic morning, the boss is grumpy and your deadlines are killing you! Time to have a break and eat some lunch. So you gobble down your two sandwiches and not too soon after that, you start feeling like you can’t keep your eyes open. Do you know that feeling? I’m feeling a bit like that right now, to be honest. Too much bread in a normally bread free diet would do that to a person, I suppose… Anyway, social and workplace restraints aside, do you feel like napping? If so, do you think it is good for you? If you want to know more about napping, read on.

Different types of napping

I couldn’t believe it either. Who would have thought that there are different types of naps? Definitely not me! I mean, sure, you get siestas, afternoon naps and so on. But the different types of napping is not based on time of day. It is based on state of mind, or something like that… Let’s take a look:

1. Emergency Napping

This is the type of nap you take after you’ve had too much to eat during your lunch break. It is when you suddenly feel so tired that you simple can’t continue doing what you are doing without having a nap first. And here is a tip for you. When you drive and you start feeling drowsy, find a safe area to stop and take an emergency nap. Drowsy driving does not only endanger your own life, but the lives of other motorists around you. And on that same note, if you work with heavy machinery and you feel tired, take a break. Don’t play with life, it is precious.

2. Planned Napping

As the name suggests, planned napping involves planning your nap. This type of napping comes in handy when you know you are going to be up late for work. (Because that is the only valid reason to stay up late ;p). There is not much more to it, really.

3. Habitual Napping

Once again, the name says it all. This type of napping is common in children and old people. It is when you take a nap at the same time every day. This type of napping is essential for child growth and development. So if you want to make sure your child grows up to be a healthy individual, make them nap. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children below the age of 5 should sleep at least 10 hours per day. But they can sleep up to 16 hours a day, which means that they will have to nap. Or at least, I think they should nap. 16 hours’ uninterrupted sleep sounds highly unlikely…

So basically there are three types of naps that you can take. If you do not nap often or at all, please don’t deny yourself an emergency nap, should the need ever arise.

How to approach your nap

If you plan to take a nap, or if it just happens spontaneously, try to keep it below 30 minutes. According to research, naps ranging between 20 and 40 minutes seem to have the best effect on alertness. Another added benefit is that you won’t feel groggy after taking a short nap and you will also not struggle to fall asleep at night. Anything longer than 40 minutes might make you feel moody when you wake up and deprive you of nocturnal sleep, which is a big no-no. Napping is not supposed to replace nocturnal sleep, unless you follow a very specific sleep cycle, which we won’t discuss now. But go and check out the blog post we did on sleep cycles here.

You should also make sure that the room you use to nap in is optimized for that very purpose. Think about it, if you only intend to lie down for 20 odd minutes, you’d want to make every minute count, right? That is why it is important to take your nap in a cool, dark room with little to no noise. Lying in bed is nice, but sleeping is just so much better, plus it is more beneficial as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is the time of day. For emergency naps time of day is not really an issue, but if you plan your nap, plan it right. Trying to nap too early in the day might mean that you won’t fall asleep, because your circadian rhythm is still in it’s “wake up” phase. While on the other hand, taking a nap too late in the day might impair your ability to fall asleep at night. And as I’ve already mentioned, you don’t want that.

 The pro’s of napping

Man leaning on the steering wheel in the retro car.

Taking a nap can improve your mood, efficiency and alertness. No wonder some Chinese factory owners allow their employees to sleep on the job, literally. Yeah, that’s right! A lot of Chinese factories enforce a 30 minute nap period after lunch time. It might sound crazy, but it seems that it works. In some cases factory productivity have increased by up to 30 percent because of the special nap time. To me it makes complete sense. Why would you force your employees to work when they can hardly keep their eyes open after having a carb-filled lunch? Chances are that they won’t perform at peak for the rest of the day. So rather make them sleep off the after lunch lethargy and get back to work, feeling refreshed and alert. I think we should implement this system in South Africa as well. Who’s with me?

Performance and Alertness

I digress. Where were we? Oh yes, we were discussing the benefits of taking a nap. If you don’t believe me that napping is good for you, maybe you will believe NASA? But then again, maybe you believe that they shot the moon landing in one of NASA’s many secret hideouts… Anyway. NASA did a study on their astronauts that showed a 34% increase in the performance of these pilots after a 40 minute nap. The study also showed that the astronauts were 100% more alert after their naps. In essence, napping enhances your performance directly after the nap, but it can also have an extended positive effect on you.

For shift workers

Research done at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center showed that a nap is a shift workers best friend. (Sorry shift worker dogs). People working the night shift tend to fade as the night wears on. No matter how many hours of good sleep they got during the day, staying awake through the night just doesn’t come naturally. Thus night shift workers struggle to stay alert throughout their shift. Our friends at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center found that taking naps during the night shift enhanced the efficiency of those shift workers.

And for my next statement, you might want to take a screen shot or write it down or something. Because what I am about to say is going to shock you. Night shift workers should also take caffeinated drinks to help them stay awake. Yes, I said it. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of you can start having coffee before bed. Only people that has to work through the night are allowed to have coffee after dark, are we clear? Good.

Medical reasons

If you struggle with some form of sleep disorder, and there are many of them, ask your medical practitioner if taking a nap can help. I know that for some sleep disorders, napping is one of the prescribed treatments. But beware! Do not let the nap become too long, because it can easily become a replacement for your nocturnal sleep.

The con’s of napping

An old woman wearing a hoody coat and covering her face with her hands in yuri ria in black and white.

Unfortunately taking a nap isn’t always the best thing to do. It may also vary from person to person how good or bad a nap can be. The first and obvious reason for bad naps are if you overdo it. Like I mentioned earlier in this blog post, napping for more than a maximum of 40 minutes is not good. But why are long naps bad for you? Why does it have a negative impact on you? Because if you sleep for such a long period of time, your body thinks that it is time to sleep properly. So it will go into a sleep cycle, which should not really be interrupted.

Typical sleep cycles last for about an hour and a half and contain all of the sleep phases. it will start out with light sleep, which is what you do when you nap. From there your body will move into a deeper sleep state and lastly enter the dream sleep state, or rapid eye movement sleep (REM) state. Your body does not take it too well to be woken from the latter two sleep states. In fact, your body might enter a sleep inertia state if it wakes up from deep sleep or REM sleep.

What is sleep inertia?

In basic terms, it is that feeling of disorientation you feel when you wake up after a too long nap. I’m sure most of you have experienced it at one stage or another. Luckily sleep inertia doesn’t normally last very long, but it can still cause problems if you are a Chinese factory worker and you over extended your nap…

But there are other negative effects as well and I think we touched on some of those already. Like making a nap replace your night time sleep. Unless you are one of those lucky night shift workers that are allowed to ingest caffeine after dark, your day time nap should not replace your night time sleep.

The verdict

To nap or not to nap, that is the question. And the answer is yes, take a nap if you need to. But don’t overdo it and don’t replace your regular sleep with naps. But really, can you think of a better lifestyle than the Mediterranean one with a siesta and all that..?