To Nap or

It makes me very sad to know that there are people out there who struggle with sleep. Our sleep is essential for our overall health. You need to give your body & mind time to relax and recharge. Studies show that getting 7 to 8 hours of regular nighttime sleep is best for maintaining good health.1 But what happens when you don’t get a good night’s sleep and find yourself tired during the day? Or you have a lifestyle or work schedule that keeps you up at night and requires daytime sleep?

Dennis Hwang, MD, medical director at Kaiser Permanente’s Sleep Center in San Bernardino County, California, shares tips on when to try napping or other relaxation techniques.

Tips on napping

  • Know if napping is right for you — “Every person is different. If someone finds that the occasional nap helps them feel better, then napping might work for that person,” explains Dr. Hwang. “But if someone has a sleep disorder like insomnia, I advise they try to avoid naps so they can sleep better at night.”
  • Time it halfway through your day — If you’re going to nap, it’s a good idea to plan it for halfway through your day, between the time you wake up and the time you usually go to bed. If you wake up at 6 a.m. and plan to go to bed at 10 p.m., your halfway point is 2 p.m. Napping any later in the day could disrupt your ability to fall asleep at night. “Because of our circadian rhythms, our brain naturally has a dip in energy and performance around 2 to 3 p.m.,” says Dr. Hwang. “So, this is a good time for a short nap, if you need one.” Also, keep in mind that if this time falls during your regular work hours, you may want to plan your breaks and lunch hour so it makes sense for your schedule.
  • Create a calm space — Just as you might prepare for better sleep at night, you can try the same habits for a midday nap. A cooler room can help you fall asleep. Or listening to soothing music can help with relaxation. There are many calming techniques and guided activities you can try for better sleep.
  • Set an alarm for a short period — How long you snooze makes a difference in how you feel when you wake up. “To avoid entering a deep sleep, set an alarm for 20 minutes. However, up to 30 minutes is fine,” says Dr. Hwang.

Napping to relieve stress — and other relaxation techniques

There are many reasons why we may feel tired or stressed throughout the day. A recent study showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s sleep patterns and emotional well-being were negatively impacted — and that daytime napping helped relieve stress and stabilize sleep patterns.3

Knowing that a nap can help our mental state could mean it’s worth a try when you’re feeling stress or anxiety. Dr. Hwang says other relaxation techniques like mindfulness and meditation can also help to calm your mind. “There are benefits to all relaxation practices, you just need to find what works for you.”

Credit: Kaiser Permanente Health

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