Top Ten Sleep Disturbances – #4 Napping

Astronaut Sleeping on Moon

#4 Napping

Heather Johnson, RN, Resource Nurse

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Day time Napping

Have you taken a midday nap, only to awaken feeling more un-energized than before your nap? Have you said to yourself “Self, you should have never taken (said) nap” as you are now feeling much more tired than you had prior to the nap? If so, you are not alone. Why does this happen? According to the National Sleep Foundation, our body starts to naturally feel unfocused and tired in the middle of the afternoon (typically between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) and results in us feeling sleepy as most people’s circadian rhythm takes a natural dip.


What we do know from research and epidemiological studies, is that a nap lasting longer than 30 minutes “robs” our sleep bank at night and, in fact, leads to long-term ill-health effects, including higher morbidity and mortality, especially among the elderly. Healthy adults require 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, preferably at night, to function optimally. People often will nap out of habit, boredom, or in an attempt to compensate for sleep-deprivation caused by a disruption of sleep, sleep fragmentation, a sleep disorder, or work schedules. Daytime naps can cause what is known as sleep inertia, where your body feels groggy and disoriented after waking up from a nap. This may happen as the result of being woken (by others or an alarm) after your body has entered a deeper stage of sleep. Daytime naps may also cause insomnia and poor sleep quality at night.


When done properly, the Mayo Clinic has found that daytime napping can have its benefits. Napping can offer an opportunity for relaxation, provide an opportunity for a rejuvenating “mini-vacation”, improve mood, reduce fatigue, increase alertness, assist with memory, and improve performance and reaction time. Some refer to these short-measured opportunities as a “power nap.” A recent NASA study found that military pilots and astronauts improved their performance by 34% and alertness by 100% when given the opportunity for a 26 minute nap.

26 minutes? Not 25 or 27? No, exactly 26 minutes is what NASA research found. Napping longer than the 26 minutes is when our body starts to enter into a deeper sleep stage and leaves a person feeling less energized, groggy, and at times, unpleasant to be around. This post-nap period, lasting often 10-20 minutes after awakening, can leave a person feeling disorientated and can have detrimental impacts for those who must perform after waking from a lengthy nap. Post-nap impairment (sleep inertia) can last longer for people who are sleep deprived or those who are not receiving consolidated and restorative sleep at night.


• If you have to nap during the day, keep it limited to one per day, making it no longer than 30 minutes (Remember NASA says 26 minutes) 
• Take the nap in the afternoon (Preferably between the hours of 1pm and 3pm), taking a nap later than this may affect your ability to sleep later that night
• Create a restful environment that is quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature with few distractions
• If the need for the nap is related to poor quality sleep at night, identify ways that you can have a better night’s sleep

Is there an “ugly” to daytime napping? Yes, when you don’t adhere to the recommended guidelines and research, you will likely have adverse emotional and physical health effects.
The bottom line…. When your body is getting 7-9 hours of restorative sleep at night, on a routine basis, you are putting your body in the best condition to function at its optimal level.

Who doesn’t want that?

Dhand, Sohal (2006), Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. 12(6):379-382, Nov 2006. Doi: 10.1097/01.mcp.0000245703.92311.d0
Evidence-Based Design Meets Evidence-Based Medicine: The sound sleep study. The Center for Health Design Research Coalition. Harvard Medical School, 2010. Retrieved from:
Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle Adult Health. Napping: DO’s and don’ts for healthy adults. Retrieved from: on Sept 3, 2018.
National Sleep Foundation: What is sleep hygiene? Retrieved from: https on Sept 3, 2018.



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