Benefits of Napping

What are the benefits of napping? Can napping affect your sleeping pattern at night? Or health?
Napping is a helpful way to catch up (the next day or on weekends) on sleep debt accumulated as a result of sleep deprivation. Short afternoon naps can be refreshing and restore lost sleep. If afternoon naps are too long (ie over 30-60 minutes), night-time sleep may be disturbed. Overall, short afternoon naps are refreshing and are a good way to catch up on lost sleep the night before.

Is it bad to take naps during the day, and will it affect one’s quality of sleep during the night?
Naps are beneficial if one has been sleep deprived the night before, or sleep deprived for several days, because naps can help us catch up on lost sleep. It is natural to feel sleepy in the mid-afternoon if one has not had enough sleep the night before, or for several days before that. A short nap in the mid-afternoon, or sleeping in on weekends if sleep deprived over the course of the week, are both helpful in repaying this “sleep debt” and restoring alertness. Catching up on lost sleep is generally good for one’s health, while conversely, not getting enough sleep has a negative impact on physical and emotional wellbeing. The duration of the naps, however, should not exceed much longer than 30 minutes. If the afternoon nap is too long, sleep during the night may be affected.

Does sleeping more during the weekend help to replenish the lost hours of sleep accumulated during the weekdays?
Yes, sleeping in over the weekend, helps replenish the lost hours of sleep that were accumulated during the week. This catchup sleep is beneficial for health.

Why is it getting enough sleep on a regular basis good for health?
It is ideal to get enough sleep on a regular basis, because functioning on too little sleep daily – even if there is catchup sleep on the weekends, is less productive and more stressful on the body than functioning on enough good quality sleep on a daily basis. Lack of sleep is associated with reduced alertness and vigilance, irritability and mood disturbances like depression. These can lead to increased occurrence of accidents when feeling sleepy and not paying attention, for example falling asleep at the wheel if sleep deprived. In the longer term, lack of sleep is associated with significant health risks, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and if sleep deprivation is extreme, a shorter life span.

Is sleep debt accumulative? What can be done to reduce its impact? Will sleeping more during the weekends help to make up for insufficient sleep during the work week?
Yes, sleep debt is cumulative. The less sleep we get, we build up an increasing “pressure” to sleep until we are able to pay off this debt. Sleeping more the next day eg taking an afternoon nap, or sleeping in on weekends, are acceptable ways of paying off this sleep debt. One common way to reduce the impact of sleep debt is to improve one’s alertness by using a stimulant, with caffeine being the most often used non-drug substance. While this can keep one alert for several hours, it is not encouraged as a permanent solution to sleep deprivation, because ultimately sleep lack is associated with significant health risks, and the sleep debt needs to be paid off eventually somehow. Caffeine use is only a temporary measure to improve alertness.