For Adults: To Nap or Not to Nap?


Love it or hate it, daylight savings time in northern Michigan ends November 7. And whether we “fall back” or “spring forward,” a time change always seems to have an impact on sleep.

Like many people, you may struggle with sleep beginning the morning after a time change. But the questions is… Will an afternoon nap help?

Given the many benefits of sleep, napping should be a no-brainer for better health, right? Unfortunately, the research shows mixed results.

The nitty-gritty on napping

On the plus side, napping may relieve stress and improve alertness. It may also be good for your emotions. One study found napping may block negative feelings like frustration and impulsiveness.

However, some past studies suggest napping may shorten your life. One possible reason: adults who feel a need to nap often may have an undiagnosed health condition. Napping has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and depression.

Or it could be that people who nap may just not be sleeping well at night—a serious issue for your overall health.

Need some naptime?

“The body’s need for a nap is actually physiological,” said James Milliken, MD, Sleep Disorder and Pulmonary Medicine Specialist with Milliken Medical Group in Traverse City. “There’s nothing wrong with a short nap as long as doesn’t interfere with your nighttime sleep.”

If you want to take a daytime nap, here are some tips that will help you better catch that extra shut-eye:

  • Limit your nap to 20 to 30 minutes. Longer naps can leave you groggy—a condition called sleep inertia. In such a state, you are more apt to make mistakes and have accidents shortly after waking up. But the groggy feeling usually doesn’t last longer than a half hour.
  • Don’t nap after 3 pm. Naps later in the day may mess with your ability to fall asleep at night.
  • Nap in a sleep-friendly environment. Choose a cool, quiet, comfortable place. Remove any bright lights, if possible. Just like at bedtime, limit distractions by turning off your cell phone, computer, and TV.

Experts do recommend naps for people who work the night shift, suffer from jet lag, or have a sleep disorder that causes a person to fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly (narcolepsy).

What if napping’s not enough?

More research is needed to fully decide if napping is a boon or a bust for your health. It may help in the short term, but naps don’t give your body enough time in deep sleep. That’s the most restorative stage of sleeping.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider talking to a sleep specialist at a nearby Munson Healthcare Sleep Disorder Center. Many sleep issues can be diagnosed and treated. This “Snore Score” quiz may help you understand if we can help.

Ask your primary care provider for a referral. You can learn more about Munson Healthcare sleep medicine services at here, or by contacting us in CadillacCharlevoixKalkaskaManistee, and Traverse City

If you have questions about sleep, or if you don’t have primary care provider, please contact Munson Healthcare Ask-A-Nurse at 231-935-0951. Our team of registered nurses provide expert health information and can help you find a provider in your area.

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