Many of us find ourselves longing for a long afternoon nap to help us recharge after a late night, early morning or even a heavy lunch. When you finally get the chance to pass the time on a lazy Sunday with a much-deserved siesta, you often feel just as tired as you were before laying down.
Why is it that naps often don’t give us the energy we so desperately desire?
The Science Behind the Nap
According to sleep health expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra, two main factors determine how sleepy you feel: homeostatic sleep drive and circadian rhythm. To break these down in a simple way, the homeostatic sleep drive means the longer you are awake, the more chemicals build up in your brain eventually telling you that it’s time to go to sleep.
Circadian rhythm refers to your internal clock that works to keep you awake during certain times of the day, while making you feel sleepy at other times. When either of these processes becomes misaligned, it causes sleepiness, and that ongoing desire to rest when you would usually be awake.
Scientists have also discovered that the length of your nap has an incredible effect on how you feel when you wake up. NASA has conducted many studies over the years on napping for astronauts and their findings can be applied to all of us.
Based on NASA research, a nap should last only 10 to 26 minutes in order to increase mental performance. These studies also show that a 26 minute nap improved pilot performance by 34%, and overall alertness by 54%.
Sleeping longer than half an hour puts you at risk of triggering rapid eye movement (REM), and a 90 minute nap completes the entire sleep cycle, which can leave you feeling more groggy than when you laid down for a nap in the first place. Entering into a new sleep cycle gives you no added benefits and throws off your circadian rhythm. So, try to avoid those long afternoon naps lasting hours at a time – they can actually cause more harm than good.
Daytime Naps Affect Nighttime Sleep
If you are someone who finds yourself constantly tired and lethargic during times when you are usually bright and alert, a huge factor can be traced back to your quality of sleep. To improve your overall health, take a look at your patterns of sleep each night and your naps during the day. You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to diagnose what is causing your poor quality of sleep.
Do I wake up frequently after going to bed? Am I using electronics up until the point I shut off the light? Do you wake up in the morning with any sort of body pain?
These are factors that can contribute to feeling tired during the day, and it is important to identify any change in behaviors to improve sleep quality. Making up for lost (night)time sleep with long daytime naps throws off your circadian rhythm, and ends up making you feel more tired.
If you are worried you are not getting the best night sleep possible come visit us at one of our many Mattress Firm locations. Tell one of our Mattress Firm employees what you’ve noticed about your sleep patterns and we will take it from there. Helping you sleep happy is what we do.
About The Author
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