Old people, babies and pets; the only acceptable demographics for napping. The rest of us can’t afford the time for such indulgence, we’ve simply too many other things to be getting on with. Only, with more people reportedly sleeping worse than ever before, it’s time to take a fresh look at topping up our rest reserves.
“As a society, we see sleep is unproductive time and there is nothing worse than unproductive time in our society right now!” muses Dr Michael Grandner, Professor of Behavioural Sleep Medicine at Arizona University and LYMA Sleep Ambassador. “We're constantly feeling like we don't have enough time, so we mortgage sleep to fund more productivity time. Only the truth is the opposite because data shows that if you budget a little more time for sleep, you'll be mentally clearer and more capable the next day.”
So why have naps gained such a bad reputation?
“We see naps as laziness but in truth, there are very few things you can do to enhance your performance better than a brief nap during the day. Humans figured this out a long time ago that napping is a good thing, which is why if you look at cultures all around the world, they've embraced napping as this is part of the human experience,” says Grandner.
We might dismiss the ‘siesta’ as a quirky lifestyle choice of the Spanish but surprisingly between 60% to 80% of people practice siesta at least 4 times per week in India, Mexico, Ecuador, Nigeria and China. People even practice siesta in the U.S., with 40% to 50% of Floridians taking a siesta at least once a week. It originated to give workers respite from the hottest part of the day but with the introduction of air-conditioning, a more globalised economy and longer commuting times, the siesta, though dating back to Roman times, is now increasingly viewed as unnecessary. (Ref sleep.org)
Why do you wake up more tired after a nap?
Many people report that they wake from a nap feeling even more tired than before. The explanation for that being that they’re taking a nap at the wrong time of day or for the wrong length of time. Anyone who's been woken up after an hour or so of sleep by small children or been jolted awake by a sudden noise, knows that when you wake up, you feel disorientated and irritable. This is because you’ve been disturbed when in your deep sleep stage. Sleep fluctuates in repeating cycles from deep to light, the deepest section happens as we initially fall asleep and then becomes a little shallower each time. “It's very bad to wake up from that deep level of sleep, when your muscles are super relaxed and the thinking part your brain is largely shut off. The deep sleep stage is when your brain is doing vital work, you're paralyzed and you have a very high contextual sensory arousal threshold,” explains Grandner. This can also happen if you nap too close to your night-time sleep and subsequently slip into the deep sleep meant for the evening.
Do power naps help?
The key to a power nap is keeping it short and waking before you get into deep sleep stage, therefore the nap only consists of light sleep. A power nap could be anywhere between fifteen and sixty minutes, depending on when you take it. Keep them close to the middle of the day and under an hour because the further away you nap from your normal sleep time, the longer it will take you to get into that deep sleep, so the less risk there is of waking badly. “There doesn't seem much performance difference between 20 and 45 minutes, so you don't gain much by sleeping more but the data shows that under relatively well-rested conditions, a power nap can improve performance, reduce fatigue, improve learning and memory,” says Grandner.
The sleep replacement nap.
This is what shift workers end up doing a lot; they can't sleep during the night when their body wants to sleep, so they must sleep during the day. The sleep replacement nap goes through a full cycle of two and a half hours and it’s very refreshing so long as you wait to wake up naturally at the end of the cycle. More than one sleep cycle though, and you’re entering into dangerous territory whereby your body’s circadian clock can flip itself, believing that daytime is the biological night. “Think of it like a meal replacement bar or drink,” suggests Grandner. “It's not a whole meal but it'll do when needed as sleep substitution.”
Can a nap help sleep deprivation?
The answer is no; naps are not a good fix for sleep deprivation. Necessity naps are why naps get a bad reputation. These are naps where you are unable to stay awake because you’re so starved for sleep that your body needs a nap. “People who have naps by necessity and can't stay awake usually have an underlying sleep issue,” explains Grandner. “Dozing off without meaning to, is a sign that you’re sleep starved. Perhaps your sleep is too shallow and not restorative because there's something in the way or you have an untreated sleep disorder? The nap itself isn't the problem, it's a sign of a problem that needs fixing.”
Do naps help muscle recovery?
Yes! World-class athletes nap all the time. There are exhaustive medical studies debating whether that’s because they work their bodies to the limits and naps are a smart way to swift muscle recovery, enabling them to push themselves harder, or whether they need to sleep off the physical exhaustion. Either way, top athletes use naps to enhance their performance, so why shouldn’t we?
3 ways to get better at napping.
1- Calm Your Mind: To get napping more quickly and easily, requires a reduction in anxiety and the quietening of needless mental chatter. Supplementation is the best way to reach this zen-like state and none are proven to be more effective than the KSM-66® Ashwagandha and affron® validated saffron extract in LYMA. Unrivalled ingredients in their sleep-supporting ability, KSM-66® Ashwagandha and affron® work in tandem to alleviate stress, calm your thoughts, lift negative moods and promote restorative sleep.
2- Quarter Is Plenty: A 15-minute nap in the middle of the day, helps the body enormously and won’t interfere with your night-time sleep. It might seem too short but for those currently denying themselves naps altogether, it could be the ideal way to fitting a nap into their busy work schedule.
3- Keep It Cool: We sleep better in cooler temperatures so even if that means wrapping yourself in a blanket, a cool room will help get you off to sleep more quickly. Don’t create complete darkness either, it’s not meant to be night; a gentle level of light will help you nap more efficiently.
Originally published Jul 9, 2021.
Written by Jess Lacey, Beauty & Wellness Editor.