Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > Health> Wellness > Why napping is good for you

Why napping is good for you

There are many misconceptions around the effectiveness of naps. Lounge goes through the medical evidence of why napping is good for you

Napping is good for you.
Napping is good for you. (Istockphoto)

Despite marking the World Sleep Day on Friday, a big chunk of the global population likely spent long hours the past weekend either fighting to fall asleep, or fighting sleep. One could have easily made up for some of that lost sleep by napping during the day—an art that the Spaniards have perfected so well that it’s now a part of their culture, known as siesta. But there is much misinformation and hearsay around napping out there, including the claim that they’re unhealthy for us. Sleep experts, doctors and research dismiss all talk of naps being bad, and assure that naps are good for one’s health, memory, creativity, intelligence, productivity and mental health.

A 2023 study published in the journal Scientific Reports, titled Targeted Dream Incubation At Sleep Onset Increases Post-Sleep Creative Performance found sleeping can triple the chance of having a moment of creative insight. An older study from 2010 found that people who napped after lunch performed better in learning tests than those who didn’t. 

Also Read 6 great hacks to help you sleep better

Another study from last year investigated connections between daytime napping and cognitive function. It involved 35,000 participants found a direct link between napping and a larger brain volume, which means napping makes one smarter. Our brain volumes decline as we age and this process is accelerated in those who suffer from cognitive decline, which is closely associated with sleep deprivation. Several studies have found lower brain volume in people with sleep problems such as insomnia and poor sleep quality. Napping regularly could provide some protection against neuro-degeneration, by compensating for poor sleep. 

There are other, more immediate benefits of napping, including reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. The benefits of short naps between 5 to 15 minutes are almost immediate after the nap. Naps longer than 30 minutes can produce impairment from sleep inertia for a short period after waking (grogginess), but then produce improved cognitive performance for a longer period lasting up to several hours. 

Also Read Why sleep hygiene is a pressing issue

Sleep is important for us because our cardiac, respiratory, and nervous systems slow down allowing the body to relax, says Dr. Ashish Kumar Prakash, consultant for respiratory and sleep medicine at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram. “The overall internal rhythm of the body, our gastrointestinal systems, kidneys and bladder relax and their functioning slows down, conserving energy and repairing the body. Without sleep our mind does not relax. We lose our cognitive ability, dysfunction sets in, our memory becomes hazy, and we feel lethargic and sleepy throughout the day. Often people with sleep apnea suffer from interrupted sleep and nod off during the day. Without adequate sleep, the heart rate increases, our pulse rate increases, our breathing becomes irregular, and one can develop pulmonary artery hypertension.”

The amount of sleep we need depends on various factors. The most important is age, says Dr. Vikas Maurya, director and head of the department for pulmonology and sleep disorders at Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, in Delhi. “Infants aged between four and 12 months need about 12 to 16 hours of sleep every day, including naps. Toddlers between 1 to 2 years of age require 11 to 14 hours of sleep, including naps, in a day. Then, children between 3 to 5 years of age need 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day, including naps, and those aged between 6 and 12 years require around 9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Teenagers up to the age of 18 years need 8 to 10 hours of sleep. And, adults need seven or more hours at night,” he says. Naps help cut some of the sleep deficit which is a part and parcel of modern life today. 

Also Read 5 strategies to manage stress at work and home

Along with regular exercise, daytime naps lasting 10 to 20 minutes, usually called a power nap, can promote healthy sleep patterns, says Dr. Saurabh Mehrotra, associate director for mental health at Institute of Neurosciences, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram. Several factors impact the benefits we enjoy from napping such as the circadian timing of the nap, with early afternoon being the most favourable time for napping. If you have been awake for a longer period of time, a longer nap is a lot more beneficial than a brief nap.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

Also Read 7 invisible benefits of consistent exercise

Next Story