Is it a good idea to nap?
It depends. If you have difficulty falling asleep at night you should avoid taking daytime naps. Your daytime sleep, especially if it’s longer than thirty minutes, could be causing or exacerbating insomnia.
Most sleep specialists believe that naps are a good idea only if you can’t manage to get one continuous period of sleep at night that is long enough to enable you to be fully alert all day long. If your hectic lifestyle doesn’t permit you to get adequate nocturnal rest, take a nap on a regular basis.
Sleep and Gender
There are some fascinating differences in the sleep habits of men and women.
- Women are more likely than men to suffer from insomnia.
- Young adult women report insufficient sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulties in maintain sleep, and the absence of feeling refreshed in the morning more frequently than do young adult men.
- More women than men suffer from sleep problems.
- Sixty-six percent of night eaters are women.
- Women sleep much less in the premenstrual phase of the cycle and often feel more tired, irritable, confused, and depressed during this phase.
You won’t be alone.
Half the world’s population naps during the stretch from 1 to 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Today, the average American takes about one to two naps a week. About 25 percent of Americans never nap, and about 30 percent nap more than four times a week. In a study of undergraduate students we found that 83 percent experienced mid-afternoon drowsiness and 81 percent take a nap at least once a week.
Naps are healthy if you’re sleep deprived, as long as they don’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep at your appropriate bedtime.
Is There an Inborn Tendency to Nap?
Recent research indicates that the human body is inclined to rest in the middle of the afternoon as well as at night, even after adequate nocturnal sleep. A heavy meal at lunch doesn’t make you sleepy, it simply unmasks the physiological sleepiness that’s already in your body. The “postlunch dip” in alertness occurs whether or not food is consumed.
Dr. William Dements, director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center at Stanford University, says, “It seems nature definitely intended that adults should nap in the middle of the day, perhaps to get out of the midday sun.”
Dr. Dement, the Canadian sleep specialist Dr. Roger Broughton, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. David Dinges found that our natural sleep pattern is biphasic: We have a significant drop in body core temperature and alertness at night, and a similar but smaller drop in the middle of the day. According to Dr. Dinges, “A tendency to get sleepy at certain times [during the day] is biological.”