Generally speaking, napping is often viewed as an activity reserved for the very old or very young—but many adults regularly also reap the benefits of an afternoon power nap. That said, if you’ve ever brought up the idea in conversation with a group of people then you know that naps can be a polarizing topic. People tend to fall in one of three camps: regular nappers (this includes power nappers), non-nappers (those individuals who insist that they “never” or “cannot” nap) and people who are neutral on the topic (though in my experience, most people have opinions about this). Whatever your stance on naps, there is scientific evidence to back the value of them. But if you’re someone that believes naps just don’t work for you, you’re not alone. A recent study suggests that some people may be genetically predisposed to needing more continuous sleep than others, thus limiting their ability to nap. As we are all grappling with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s an important time to ensure that you are carefully regulating your sleep—and understanding how your body reacts to napping can be essential to maintaining the right sleep habits.
When considering which camp you fall into, it’s important to think about the regularity of your naps and how you feel after them. If you nap regularly and it gives you the boost you need to get through the day, then more than likely you’re someone who benefits from a good, old-fashioned nap. For those that are not regular nappers, naps can be disruptive and negatively impact their overall sleep routine. According to this Washington Post article, there is a difference between people who can nap during the day versus those who either can’t fall asleep or wake up from naps feeling worse than when they started—and it often has more to do with how their body needs to go about hitting their 7-8 hours of shut-eye than the actual nap itself.
Some individuals need to have 7-8 consecutive hours of sleep. For someone who has a tendency to sleep 5 or 6 hours in a row, they may be able to catch their missing two in the form of a nap here and there throughout the day. But for someone who is able to sleep consistently and get all their hours of sleep at night, a nap may not be necessary—and in fact, the nap can take them beyond the necessary amount of sleep they need to detrimental effect.
So on one hand, nappability depends on how long one can sleep at a time as well as a person’s normal schedule. The WaPo article goes on to explain, “One reason for this has to do with how your homeostatic sleep pressure (HSP), which regulates sleep intensity, aligns with your circadian rhythm, which regulates the timing of sleep.” So the amount, schedule and intensity of sleep you get all factors into the equation that determines if you are someone who can benefit from naps or not.
“If napping becomes a pattern for people who aren’t able to habitually nap, it can throw off their natural circadian rhythm, which influences functions such as digestion and body temperature.” Excessive napping can also be a sign that something is wrong, so if you find yourself dozing off during the day—pay attention to how your body is feeling. Is this normal for you or not? If not, you may want to check in with a doctor or mental health professional to help determine the reason behind the heightened exhaustion.
The science behind the genetic predisposition to naps really drives home the importance of sleep routine. Better sleep and how you achieve it all comes down to consistency. In order to stay healthy and ensure you get enough rest is to establish a consistent sleep routine that works for you and helps you get solid REM sleep. And, as you take measures to protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 outbreak, prioritize sleep—it’s one of your best defenses as healthy sleep supports your immune system, helping it function as it should.
This story originally appeared in eNews. Click here to get Sleep Retailer eNews delivered straight to your inbox.