Especially during high school and on to college, many students do not get enough sleep and are tired when waking up in the morning or start to feel fatigued at some point in the day. This is a natural occurrence and taking naps is one way to combat the tiredness that creeps in as the day progresses.

Because naps don’t count toward the total amount of time people should spend sleeping per day, some feel guilty because they think they are losing valuable sleep time by taking a nap. Although this is true, napping can improve productivity so that the same amount of work can be accomplished in less time. 

Some countries, as well as certain companies within the United States, encourage napping because feeling tired during the day will affect people’s efficiency. Around two to three p.m., our blood sugar and energy levels naturally start to decrease after eating lunch. When taking possible sleep deprivation into account, this makes it particularly difficult to remain alert for long periods of time. For this reason, Google headquarters installed “nap pods” that have special rhythms to encourage relaxation and eliminate surrounding distractions. In Spain, businesses often shut down for two or three hours to accommodate a midday rest called the “siesta”, which includes a nap following lunch with family and friends. Instead of forcing tired employees to work, these options encourage people to take a nap and go back to work feeling re-energized.

Lines in red indicate REM Sleep. Image by Kernsters

Unfortunately, some people may experience sleep inertia, a condition where you feel drowsier after waking up. However, taking a 20 to 30-minute power nap keeps you in the lightest stages of non-REM sleep so that it’s easier to get up. On the other hand, getting Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep takes around 90 minutes and involves a full cycle of light & deep sleep. Both types of naps will end in the lightest stage of sleep. However, because it avoids deep sleep altogether, a 20-minute power nap helps to ensure avoidance of sleep inertia. Studies by NASA, Harvard Medical School, and many other medical institutions have concluded that a 20-minute power nap will boost your alertness and motor skills, while a 90-minute nap plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and helps in creative problem-solving. The length and type of nap will determine how the brain is affected and which benefits are received.

In order to combat a lack of sleep and feel better rested, people should consider integrating afternoon naps into their everyday lives. Napping is often associated with small children but it is already ingrained in many different cultures because of its benefits, which include relaxation, increased alertness, and higher productivity. Knowing what type of nap to take when is important so that the valuable results are maximized.

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