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June 21, 2020 4 min read

There's a lot we can learn from cats. Play hard. Soak up some sweet sunbeams. And of course, make time for quality cat naps. 

Unlike our furry friends, we have jobs, families, and other commitments that prevent us from lounging around all day. Most of us stop taking daily naps before the age of 5.1 In many areas of the world, there is a negative stigma with napping. The idea is that naps are for the lazy and that only those who are very old, very young, or sick should nap. 

Unfortunately, this stigmatization may be keeping millions of people from getting the rest they need. 

Naps are healthy

The idea that naps are only necessary for people who are already sick is ludicrous. Napping can help boost your immune system and prevent you from getting sick. Naps have a wide range of known benefits. 

  • Increased alertness
  • Higher cognitions
  • Lower stress
  • Better energy
  • Quicker to learn
  • Improved memory

What's so great about naps?

The National Sleep Foundation puts naps into three distinct categories: planned, emergency, and habitual. 

Planned

A planned nap is anytime you make a conscious decision to sleep outside of your regular sleep schedule. 

Emergency

Emergency naps occur when you've pushed yourself to the limit, and you cannot physically go on without sleeping. Emergency naps are generally a sign that you are severely sleep-deprived or suffering from a medical issue. 

Habitual

When you plan naps regularly, they are called habitual naps. Countries like Spain are famous for their cultural acceptance of this form of napping. In the United States, naps are not nearly so normalized. 

There are many benefits to napping that you may not realize.

Naps can improve your love life

Being too tired for sex is a common complaint among both women and men. Research also shows that sleep deprivation can lower testosterone levels in men2. Getting a good nap can increase your sex drive and help provide you with some added stamina.

Napping can keep you safe

A lot of our daily activities are pretty dangerous. Driving, for example, kills thousands of people every year. Many professions involve operating heavy machinery, and even walking outside presents dangers. 

When people are sleep deprived, they are at a higher risk of making mistakes.3 Sleep deprivation can increase your odds of accidentally walking out in front of traffic, running a stop sign, tripping over uneven flooring, or other unnecessary accidents. 

Naps can help you lose weight

Sleep and weight are pretty closely related, both directly and indirectly. Rest is a natural way to boost your overall health and wellness, and that includes keeping your metabolism at its best. Yet an extra nap here and there can help empower you to make healthier choices on your own. 

When you're overly tired, your brain ramps up its reward centers and starts urging you to seek out things that feel good4. Truly that extra slice of cake is harder to resist when you're tired. However, well-rested people usually have more willpower to exercise and resist piling their plates high with comfort food. 

How long should I nap?

One of the reasons people don't nap is because they fear the grogginess that can sometimes ensue. Have you ever nodded off in your chair only to wake up later, somehow more tired than before? This groggy feeling is called sleep inertia. With naps, it's all about the timing. 

Everyone is a little different, but 10 to 20 minutes is generally ideal for a midday nap. This short timeframe is long enough to give you an energy boost, but not so long that your body begins to transition to deeper sleep. 

As you sleep for more extended periods, your brain starts to prepare for a full night's sleep and will release compounds that encourage you to stay asleep. Ideally, it would be best if you wake yourself up before this point. 

When should I nap?

The time of day is vital for your napping schedule. A long nap in the evening is likely to disrupt your nightly sleep. In the mornings, you may not yet be tired enough to fall asleep for a snooze, which should be the most productive hours of your day. 

For most people, the perfect nap zone is around midday. You're probably familiar with the post-lunch sluggishness that many people feel around 2 p.m. or so. Post-lunch is the ideal time to curl up for a short power nap to get you ready for the rest of the day. 

Practice makes perfect

You may need to test the waters a bit before you find the perfect nap schedule for you. Be sure you always set your alarm when you nap and try sleeping for different intervals at slightly different times of the day to fine-tune what works best for you and your routine. 

So go on and take that quick cat nap! Your mind and body will thank you for it. 


(1) Lam J, M.D., Mahone E, Ph.D., Mason T, M.D., Ph.D., Scharf S, M.D., Ph.D.  (2012 Feb) The Effects of Napping on Cognitive Function in Preschoolers
(2) Thomson, J (2011 Aug) Lack Of Sleep Could Lower Men's Sex Drives
(3) Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research (2006) Functional and Economic Impact of Sleep Loss and Sleep-Related Disorders
(4) WebMD Medical Reference (2018 July) Sleep More, Weigh Less


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