Places Pointer: Napping

It plays an important role in keeping our brain healthy!

You shouldn’t feel lazy for indulging in daytime sleep, a short nap can have a variety of benefits!

Naps aren’t just good for babies; they can be great for adults too. Naps can help you catch up on a late night, make you feel less cranky, and ensure you’re well rested if you have a job that doesn’t fall in traditional daytime working hours. In fact, they play a part of the daily routines of many Japanese people, who are known to take a ‘hirune’ (afternoon nap) during lunchtime.

We know that sleep helps with learning, recovery, forming long-term memories, and stress reduction, so it’s no wonder that studies show there’s a world of good to gain from taking a quick nap!

How can I nap well?

Timing is one of the most important aspects of napping. The best time to take a nap is during the early afternoon as this is when your body has a natural dip in its circadian rhythm which changes its energy levels. Whereas napping later in the afternoon or evening can make it trickier to fall asleep at night.

Aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterwards. Try to track how much you’re sleeping at night too, if you’re not getting enough sleep it may be time to take steps that improve your sleep hygiene.

Pros and cons of napping

Increased alertness, improved mood, and relaxation are some of the commonly known benefits of napping, but researchers from University College London have gathered more detailed findings.

Researchers discovered that napping regularly may keep our brains bigger for longer, while preserving its overall health. The brains of people who napped multiple times a week were 15 cubic metres larger than the brains of people who never nap. This research also showed how napping can delay ageing of the brain by between three to six years.

Despite its benefits, limiting how frequently you nap throughout the day is recommended. In some instances, sleeping too much during the day can make you have a harder time falling asleep at night. Some people also report feeling disoriented after waking up from a nap. 

Some tips for a better sleep

If you’re unable to nap during the day but also find yourself tossing and turning at night, there are some things you can do to improve how you rest.

Caffeine and alcohol are some usual culprits that affect sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant so naturally makes it trickier to fall asleep, and consuming large amounts of alcohol prevents us from falling into the stage of our sleep cycle where sleep is at its deepest (REM).

To improve sleep quality, prioritising exercise in your daily routine should be a go-to. Whether you’re getting out for a short walk or joining a workout class, the feel-good endorphins that your brain releases during exercise can help to combat stress or anxiety that may be preventing you from sleeping well.

Limiting screen time before bed can also help. The blue light that is emitted from electronic devices suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. By taking a break from screens, you can give yourself a better chance to relax at bedtime. Learn more about why to do a digital detox here

Now relax! Use these pointers to get that extra snooze in to recharge and refresh.

Sources: Why overtired Japan is turning to office siestas (BBC News) | The effects of napping on cognitive functioning (National Library of Medicine) | Study: Napping may be beneficial for your brain – here’s how (University College London) | How does alcohol affect your sleep? (Bupa) | Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning (National Library of Medicine)