Should we take naps? We’ve all been tempted to take a midday rest at some point and so we decided to discover the answer to the long asked question! After all, humans belong to the small 15% of mammals that are monophasic, rather than polyphasic – meaning that we sleep only once in a 24 hour period instead of frequently. Scientists aren’t entirely sure if this is due to our nature or the demands of modern society. Here are some of the known advantages and disadvantages of napping throughout the day.
1. A study completed by NASA in 2005 tested the effectiveness of naps on different sleep cycles. They found that after naps the participants in the study had improvements in their working memory. This is the ability to be focused upon one task, while still retaining other tasks in your memory at the same time.
2. Sleep also improves memory consolidation – remembering things. A study by Gais & Born shows that slow wave sleep (when you do not dream) allows your brain to process your recently learned knowledge. This means taking a long nap can prove particularly helpful when you have a large amount of information to memorize in a short period.
3. When combined with 30 minutes of exercise, naps are proven to improve the sleep of the elderly, even those who have reported difficulty resting. A study published in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 2001, showed that a short, 30 minute nap after lunch and moderate exercise in the evening helped improve sleep quality, with the additional benefit of improving mental health.
4. A recent Greek study suggests that taking naps may reduce coronary mortality. Researchers discovered that participants taking daily naps had a 37% less chance of contracting a fatal heart condition. However, other aspects must be considered in this study, such as participant health, occupation & diet; all of which effect the heart.
1. A major disadvantage of taking naps is that they are not a permanent solution to reaching your daily sleep quota. As Dr. David Dinges, a sleep specialist from the University of Pennsylvania stated during the aforementioned study by Nasa, naps “cannot replace adequate recovery sleep over many days “.
2. The study by NASA also found that the common belief that taking naps can improve alertness is a myth. Participants in the study did not find any increase in alertness or find it easier to focus their attention after taking a nap. Alertness and focus depend solely upon the total number of hours you sleep within a 24 hour period.
3. Another disadvantage of napping is that you may develop sleep inertia. This is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that occurs after you wake up from a deep sleep. It generally dissipates within a half hour but can prove difficult if you are required to perform at a high state of awareness directly after your nap. It is more severe in those who have napped for a long period and so keeping your naps short, ideally between 20 to 30 minutes can help to prevent this.