Power up your naps
The A to Zzz of healthy napping
Napping isn’t just for babies—in fact, one out of three American adults say they nap on a regular basis. But is napping healthy? That’s a complicated question, and one that UMass Amherst sleep researcher Rebecca Spencer seeks to answer in a recent article in Discover Magazine. Napping can be good for you, says Spencer, but the when, why, and how matter.
“We've now found that sleep serves a lot of great functions. It's not surprising. That's why we spend so much time doing it,” says Rebecca Spencer, a sleep researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “The long story short is there’s a lot of evidence that naps confer all of those same benefits.”
But not all naps are created equal. Being mindful about why and how you nap is key to reaping the benefits of daytime sleep while avoiding the risk of messing up your bedtime rest. . . .
Naps, even ones as short as 10 minutes, have been found to improve alertness and cognitive performance. Compared to staying awake, napping both improves memory consolidation and retention of what was learned before napping as well as enhancing our ability to learn after we wake up. . . .
As any parent with a fussy child may know from experience, napping can improve the ability to process emotions as well. “We know in early childhood naps can help emotion processing. Because that's the observation for little kids: If you keep them from napping, the parent will be like, ‘Oh my god, they're so grumpy. They haven't napped,’” Spencer says. . . .
There are a few ways to make sure your naps are restorative and not disruptive. For starters, catching up on sleep from the night before can be a good use for a nap, as it likely won’t ruin your sleep for the next night. . . .
Naps can also be taken in preparation for future sleep loss, such as cramming for an exam later that night.