You might think that napping is only beneficial for babies and young children. However, humans are among the 85% of mammals that take naps naturally, regardless of age. It meets a physiological need: recovery, which explains the many benefits of this rest period.
Types of naps and their benefits
There are 3 types of naps; depending on their duration, their effects can vary.
- Micronaps (known as "power naps") last 10 to 20 minutes. This type of nap stimulates learning, improves memory and lowers blood pressure.
- The long nap, lasting 90 minutes, is a complete sleep cycle. It offers all the benefits of a micro-nap, as well as boosting the immune system, reducing stress and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease in the long term.
- Naps of between 30 and 60 minutes are not ideal, even if a 60-minute nap improves memory. They can cause fatigue since their duration breaks sleep at a critical moment, making it harder to wake up.
It should be noted that these naps should be taken between midday and 3 p.m. to avoid ruining your night's sleep. Also, taking a nap at this time of day increases productivity. Biologically speaking, humans are less alert and productive during these hours. A nap acts like a mental break to counteract the afternoon sluggishness—all while providing energy and concentration.
True or false?
I'll be tired if I take a nap.
FALSE: As mentioned earlier, when the nap duration is respected according to the desired need, the nap will be beneficial and won't cause fatigue.
I've had coffee, I won't sleep.
FALSE: When taken just before a nap, coffee's action has not begun and will only start in 20 minutes, helping to wake you up and restore alertness more quickly.
I'm wasting my time if I sleep.
FALSE: Productivity is increased when naps are taken at the right time. Naturally, human productivity decreases between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Studies show that napping increases productivity if taken at this time of day.
I'll have an energy drink instead; I'll be more productive.
FALSE: These drinks may provide mental and physical stimulation, but they come with their share of undesirable effects and dangers. To find out more, read our article here.
I'm a senior citizen. Naps are just for kids.
FALSE: Naturally, hours of sleep decrease with advancing age. For the elderly, a night lasts around 6 1/2 - 7 hours. Taking a nap can increase the number of hours of sleep, even up to 8 hours a day.
The ideal environment
The perfect environment for a nap is your bed. Choose a quiet, dark and peaceful place if you can’t sleep in your bed. A sofa or armchair can do the trick. It doesn't matter whether you're sitting or lying down. The important thing is to relax. If your surroundings are too bright or noisy, eye masks and earplugs will be your best options for napping. Relaxing music can be added to foster a sense of calm. It's important not to take your phone with you as the blue light from it interferes with sleep and falling asleep. If you still can't fall asleep, it's best to get up and go about your business. Before going to bed, you must set yourself an alarm to wake you up at the end of the nap for which you've pre-set the duration.
Napping at work
Napping is also a cultural element. In some countries, such as China and Japan, napping at work is permitted and even encouraged. It is even enshrined in the Constitution. Its benefits are well recognized, with several studies showing increased productivity, creativity and cognitive and psychomotor performance. Employees who take a nap are less exhausted, more creative and more dynamic at work.
It's important to note that constant exhaustion is not normal. In this case, napping may not be the solution for you. You should consult a healthcare professional to ensure that there is no underlying health problem. Napping is not recommended for people suffering from chronic insomnia. A great night's sleep is more important for recovery than a nap.