It seems fitting that just as the holiday hustle and bustle begins in November, we celebrate National Sleep Comfort Month. Like most folks, you may not actually celebrate this commemorative holiday, but it’s a great time to take stock of your sleeping habits and identify where you can improve. Taking on more responsibility and activities and using technology to remain connected 24/7 means less sleep for many of us, causing problems completing simple tasks, unintentionally falling asleep and, for those who suffer from sleep deprivation, an increased risk of chronic disease.
More than 85 percent of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, which means they sleep for short periods throughout the day. However, adult humans are a bit of an anomaly, with most getting their sleep in one continuous 8-hour period, a behavior called monophasic sleeping. It’s unknown if we’re truly monophasic or if our lifestyles have encouraged the behavior.
In contrast, at least one third of American adults nap and early research shows, if done right, napping offers numerous benefits to the majority of people. While it won’t make up for inadequate nighttime sleep, napping may be a beneficial habit that belongs in a wellness-based lifestyle.
Ready to give napping a go? Here’s what you need to know:
- Time it right. Take naps in the afternoon, during the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to avoid interfering with the quality of nighttime sleep.
- Keep it short. Aim for naps that are short in length, about 20 to 30 minutes. Longer naps may result in sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess hard to recover from after napping. People who are sleep deprived are more susceptible to sleep inertia.
- Plan ahead. If you know you’ll be challenged to get a sufficient amount of sleep in the coming days, plan to nap in advance of your late nights or early mornings. This extra sleep will help prepare your body to have the staying power it needs during deficits that lie ahead. Taking planned naps before a road trip can also offset drowsiness related to driving long distances.
- Prep your environment. If possible, choose a quiet, dimly lit, restful place that mimics your nighttime sleep environment to increase the quality of your slumber.
Despite the fact that many experts say napping benefit research is still in early stages, initial results indicate regular nappers may reap the following benefits:
- Increased alertness
- Cognitive improvement
- Mood elevation
- Improved creativity
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of death from heart-related disease
- Protection against obesity