What Can Napping Do for You?

Updated May 27, 2022

man taking a nap

What is a Nap?

A nap is defined as a short period of sleep, typically taken during daytime hours. One-third of American adults take naps. For most people, napping is a great way to recharge or prepare for a long night.

Be warned, not everyone benefits from taking a nap. As you will see later there could be some negative effects of taking naps. This page will explore the risk, benefits, and different types of naps.

Types of Naps

Experts say that naps can be categorized based on what their purpose is. Depending on why you need a nap determines what type it is. Let’s look at the different types of naps you might take.

  • Recovery: This is for when you have a late-night or simply did not sleep well the previous night. If this is common for you, check out our page on sleep loss.

  • Prophylactic: Do you have a long night ahead? This type of nap is done in preparation for something like a late-night shift for shift workers, or even a party that will go late into the night and you want to have the energy to enjoy it.

  • Appetitive: When you take a nap just because you enjoy napping. Taking a nap can be relaxing and can help improve your mood.

  • Fulfillment: This is mostly for children because they need more sleep than adults. These can be naps you scheduled for your child, or spontaneous (child falls asleep).

  • Essential: While you are sleeping, your immune system uses extra energy when you are fighting an illness. Therefore, you may need extra sleep when you are sick.

Optimal Nap Length

Napping for different amounts of time will have different effects. As you sleep, your body will move through sleep stages. This includes going back and forth from REM to non-Rem. For more information visit our page on sleep science.

Research shows that a nap lasting five minutes is too short. Sleeping 30 minutes or more allows your body to go through the sleep cycle; however, sleeping too long adds certain risks that will be discussed later. The optimal length for a nap is about 10 to 20 minutes. These are what some people call a “power nap” because they help people recover without leaving them feeling groggy.

Values and Side-effects of Napping

As mentioned, napping can provide quality benefits to someone who takes a nap for the appropriate amount of time. There are some possible negative effects to napping that Mayo Clinic warns about.

Benefits of Napping

The following are health benefits for napping:

  • Relaxation

  • Reduced fatigue

  • Increased alertness

  • Improved mood

  • Quicker reaction time and better memory, improved performance

Potential side-effects

Napping is not recommended for everyone. There are some people who simply cannot just sleep for a short amount of time and feel refreshed. Some people have difficulty sleeping in someplace other than their own bed. Here are the potential side-effects of taking a nap:

  • Sleep inertia: Some nappers experience a feeling of grogginess and disoriented after a nap. One thing that causes this is sleeping for too long.

  • Nighttime sleep problems: Taking a nap at the wrong time of day (especially too close to bedtime) could cause nighttime sleep problems or worsen insomnia. If you struggle with insomnia, look at our page about sleep disorders. Long or frequent naps could interfere with nighttime sleep. 

When Should You Nap?

One of the best situations for a daytime nap is when experiencing new fatigue or unexpected sleepiness. Another is when you are about to have a late-night such as a late shift or party which was discussed earlier. The last situation is if you simply want to make naps part of your routine. If you are having sudden fatigue or no known cause, see a doctor as there could be a bigger underlying cause.

Tips For Napping

Here are a few tips from the Sleep Foundation on taking naps.

  • Use an alarm: As mentioned, a 10–20-minute nap is preferred. Setting an alarm will help ensure that you do not sleep too long, causing sleep inertia.

  • Early is best: Taking a nap too late in the day can potentially cause difficulty falling asleep at bedtime. Avoid naps in the late to mid-afternoon if you go to bed at normal times.

  • Choose the best environment: Make sure the area you choose to nap in is dark, quiet, and cool. Proper conditions are essential to help you sleep better. 

Naps in Children vs. Adults

There are many reasons that someone could take a nap; however, adults and children will need rest for different reasons.

Children

Infants (up to 1-year-old) need more naps and sleep than any other age group. Infants can take one to four naps a day for 30 minutes to two hours. Naps in infants help aid memory consolidation.

For toddlers (1-2 years old), napping begins to decline, but still important. At this age, napping helps improve the ability to self-regulate their behavior and improves language learning.

Children (3-5 years old) need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day. Some will sleep enough throughout the night while others may need a nap during the day.

Children (6-12 years old) may no longer need naps at this point, but preferences will vary with children.

Teens (13-17 years old) face challenges with getting enough sleep at night. Some teens can benefit from a recovery nap to maintain their cognitive performance. Sleep Foundation wars that some teens that napped during the day had trouble sleeping at night.

Adults

For some young adults, napping can help alleviate sleepiness and improve cognitive performance and regulate emotion. Certain obligations such as jobs can make taking a nap impossible.

The Sleep Foundation warns that for older adults there are negative health effects associated with long, mid-day naps. Sleep research shows a link between long naps and an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why someone could potentially need a nap. Whether you are fighting an illness, preparing for a long night, or if you just need to relax. Taking a short nap can be a great way to improve your well-being.

Remember that naps are not for everyone. For some, taking a nap can have adverse effects such as sleep inertia or trouble sleeping, especially if the nap is too late in the day or too long. If you find yourself needing long naps during the day for no known reason, see your doctor.

About the Author Steven Bieber

Steven Bieber HeadshotSteven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.


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