Most people, at one point or another, have indulged in an afternoon nap. In fact, in some countries the afternoon nap is a cultural norm, particularly in Mediterranean countries where a siesta is acknowledged to be the most comfortable way to deal with soaring midday temperatures. But new evidence has come to light that suggests that afternoon naps may not be as good for our health as we might think.
The Downsides to Napping
The first problem which many daytime nappers face is that sleeping during the day reduces the requirement for sleeping at night, and can exacerbate insomnia. The fatigue felt as a result of fragmented sleep won’t be relieved by napping, as it may further hinder the body’s natural rhythms.
In fact, if we take naps at face value – as episodes of fragmented sleep – regular napping can be an indicator of a variety of different health problems which may need addressing immediately. Conditions such as sleep apnoea can prevent restful sleep from occurring during the night, leading to fatigue during the day. Napping can also be an indicator of mental health issues such as depression. Napping isn’t necessarily bad for you in, in and of itself, but as a health indicator it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The Benefits of a Nap
Despite the recent scare stories, there are many health benefits to taking a nap which shouldn’t be ignored. Switching off for an hour can help to lower blood pressure, improve critical thinking and lower anxiety. But taking a nap can, for some, be a little impractical. So if you’re in need for some afternoon R&R, here’s how to get it.
– If you’re at work, try not to make your nap too obvious. If you’ve got an office, telling colleagues that you’re in a meeting, or on the phone, will help to avoid interruptions.
– If you’re at home you may find that it’s difficult to switch off from your daily tasks. Make sure your bed is comfortable and well made, so that taking a nap doesn’t require any additional effort on your part.
If you work shifts, uninterrupted nap time is absolutely essential. Your home needs to be peaceful in order for sleep to occur, so make sure the kids are out and don’t be afraid to have a word with the neighbours if needs be.