To Nap or Not to Nap?

Setting aside enough time for sleep probably isn’t on your daily to-do list. Like many people, you may struggle for shut-eye. In fact, 3 out of 10 adults in the U.S. average 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night. Daytime napping may seem like a good way to recoup some of that lost slumber. But you may be dozing at your own risk.
The nitty-gritty about napping
Sleep is essential for your mind and body. It keeps you alert and focused. It helps cement memories. It may even boost your immune system, protecting you from illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. However, for many of us, getting a good night’s sleep can be easier said than done as nearly 70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder.
Given the benefits sleep can impart, napping should be a no-brainer for better health, right? Unfortunately, the research has doled out mixed results. For instance, napping may relieve stress and improve alertness. It may also be good for your emotions. One study found napping may thwart negative feelings like frustration and impulsiveness.
But daytime napping may have a dark side. Some—but not all—past studies suggest napping may shorten your life. That may be especially true if you nap for more than 1 hour a day. One possible reason for this connection: People who nap more may have an undiagnosed health condition. Napping has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and depression. Or people who nap may simply not sleep well at night—a serious hex on your overall health.
Need some naptime?
More research is needed to fully decide if napping is a boom or a bust for your health. But it still may not be the best way to make up for lost slumber. Naps don’t give your body enough time in deep sleep. That’s the most restorative stage of sleeping.
  • Eliminate any bright lights, if possible. Limit distractions by turning off your cell phone, computer and television.
  • Make sure the temperature of the room is conducive to sleep, roughly 60 to 67 degrees for most of us.
  • Be mindful of your meals, mealtime and drinks, especially those with caffeine and/or alcohol.
  • Be regimented with your sleep schedule and your exercise schedule, make sure they are consistent. 
  • Learn more about your sleep position, your mattress and pillow to make sure they are best for your body and conducive to restful sleep.
If you just can’t resist the urge to enjoy a daytime nap, here are some tips that will help you better catch that extra shut-eye:
  • Limit your nap to 20 to 30 minutes. Longer naps can leave you groggy—a condition called sleep inertia. In such a state, you are more apt to make mistakes and have accidents shortly after awakening. But the grogginess usually doesn’t last longer than a half hour.
  • Don’t nap after 3 p.m. Naps later in the day may mess with your ability to fall asleep at night.
  • Nap in a sleep-friendly environment. Choose a quiet, comfortable place and utilize the basics noted above.

Getting a good night’s sleep often takes more than just being tired. It can be more and more difficult as we age. The first step in ensuring a better night’s sleep is to learn more about sleep overall so you know where to start when improving your sleep quality. Take the time to invest in getting a better night’s sleep since we do spend about a third of our lives asleep. With diagnostic and therapeutic studies and treatment options, the experts at Gwinnett Medical Center’s Sleep Lab and Center for Sleep Disorders can help you and your loved ones to rest easy.  

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