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Will Napping Affect a Good Night's Sleep?

by Jaimie Kay

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Who doesn’t love a good nap? I know I do! Many times we reach a point in the day when we become groggy and lethargic. Lying down and resting our eyes might sound like a great idea. 

Practicing meditation regularly is proven to help improve your sleep, but even if you master these techniques well, if you’re going through a particularly tiring time, you might still feel the need to take a nap. 

However, when you nap in the afternoon, can it affect your ability to sleep through the night? If you’ve rested during the day, won’t you be wide awake when it’s bedtime? Let’s take a look at the effects napping can have on your sleep cycle.

What Is the Circadian Rhythm and Why Does It Matter?

sleep cycling

The Circadian Rhythm is basically your body’s internal clock. It is running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The main function of the Circadian Rhythm is to cycle your body between awakeness and sleepiness on a regular basis. According to National Sleep Foundation, the average adult usually experiences a significant decline in alertness and wakefulness between the hours 2 AM and 4 AM (when most of us are usually already asleep) and between 1 PM and 3 PM, right after lunch.

Obviously, these times may vary depending on if you are a morning person or a night owl. Also, if you have a well-balanced Circadian Rhythm, then you won’t experience such a drastic drop in energy during those times. Even though this is an internal “clock”, there are some outside factors that can affect it, such as:

  • lightness/darkness
  • differing sleep patterns
  • amount of sleep received

Each of these outside factors can affect how sleepy you feel and when you feel it. Our bodies prefer to stick to a regular schedule. Notwithstanding, it’s not always quite possible to stick to the same routine every single day. That’s where a nap comes into play.

What Does That Mean for Naps?

adult businessman sleeping on a bench

It’s important that we remember that everyone is different. That being said, some people can include naps in their everyday schedule and it works out just fine for them. They can rest for a short amount of time in the afternoon and still get a good night’s sleep later on. Others, however, are not quite so lucky. 

For some, the urge to sleep can be offset by resting earlier in the day. For example, if you rest for an hour or two during the day, your body could possibly use that time as part of the rest it needs, causing you to feel less sleepy than you normally would at bedtime. It is possible that your Circadian Rhythm can get thrown out of whack by taking a nap. In turn, this could possibly disrupt your sleep pattern at night. It could potentially keep you from being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. However, don’t write off naps just yet. Let’s make sure we have all the facts.

What Are the Benefits of Napping?

napping bed inviting

Actually, short naps (between 20 and 30 minutes) are recommended to fight daytime fatigue and to increase your alertness. Generally speaking, a short nap won’t leave you feeling groggy, nor will it interfere with your nighttime rest. According to The Sleep Foundation, a NASA study showed that pilots and astronauts could increase awareness and alertness by 100% by taking a 40-minute nap. It also increased their performance by 34%. 

Napping can also have psychological benefits for you. Sometimes, if you are stressed about something, taking a quick nap can be sort of like a mini-vacation or a break. It can restore and rejuvenate the mind and relax the body. Sometimes we can overdo it and our bodies crave sleep. When this happens, a quick nap can be the key to functioning properly. It’s sort of like a reboot for your body.

What time you take a nap is important also. It goes without saying that if you nap later in the day, you will probably have more trouble falling asleep at night. However, by taking an early nap, you can set the tone for the rest of the day. 

What Are the Cons of Napping?

tired looking woman napping

Although there are many perks to napping, there can also be some cons. Most of it depends on the length of your nap. Taking a quick nap during the day has many benefits. However, sleeping for an hour or more during the day can disturb your nighttime sleep patterns. This could also be the case if you take a nap closer to your regular bedtime. If you sleep more during the day, you run the risk of your sleep drive diminishing, keeping you up at night and interrupting your Circadian Rhythm.

Sometimes we can experience temporary insomnia. This can be due to a number of things including jet lag or stress. When we experience this, we may feel more inclined to napping during the day. However, according to Health Magazine, napping can “perpetuate bad sleep habits”. 

If you suffer from insomnia, then your body probably craves daytime naps often. However, if you hold off and withstand the sleepiness, you can help yourself reset your Circadian Rhythm and perhaps get back on a normal sleeping pattern. You could eventually “reset your clock” by staying awake during the day and sleeping at night.

So Should You Nap?

napping on the couch

This is dependent upon your normal sleep patterns, as well as the length of the nap you take. If you regularly get around 8 hours of sleep, then taking the occasional 30-45 minute long nap probably won’t hurt if you feel as if you need it.

But if you are someone who has an abnormal sleep schedule or tend to take longer naps, then perhaps napping isn’t for you. It could possibly disrupt your sleep habits and keep you from falling or staying asleep.

Before taking a nap, these are things you should take into consideration. We are all different and have different sleep needs. 

If you feel like you need a nap, then it is suggested that you take a short, early one. If you see that your sleep patterns are becoming interrupted, then perhaps refraining from naps is a good idea.

Want to read more from Jaimie? For more science-backed tips on how to have a more healthy sleep, you can visit WellbeingVibe

Looking for ways to relax and learn to rest better? A yoga and meditation retreat in a beautiful location can work wonders on anyone suffering from the exhaustion of our modern lifestyles. 

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