Many of life’s problems can be put on snooze with the benefits of napping and sleep. It’s everyone’s favourite moment of me-time and promotes a natural way of restoring health, banishing tiredness and shutting out the noise of the world if only just for a brief moment. But what happens when the nap becomes the problem?
It’s true, you really can have too much of a good thing, and unfortunately, a quick snooze doesn’t need much to turn sour.
Here today, we’ll be setting our minds to finding out how many winks are too many, what impact this can have later in the sleep cycle all while pinpointing the exact moment a restful day becomes a restless night.
Why do we nap?
The activity of sleep seems so innate. Humans have always slept, and not a night in time has passed without it. To understand why we nap, we must first look into how we sleep. And we haven’t always slept the same way.
Let’s set the scene. It’s the dark ages, fire and the sun are the only forms of light, and we humans are doing what we do: sleeping. Today we all know and love the monophasic sleep cycle, which is when we sleep for one single eight-hour stretch. But monophasic sleep is actually kind of a modern invention.
People in the dark ages didn’t sleep like this at all. Instead, they practised something known as biphasic sleep, which is when you go to bed at around 9pm before waking up close to midnight. You then spend half the night fully awake before going back to bed around 3am for the remaining hours of sleep.
They did this because it was most natural for them to do so. Biphasic sleep is the body’s most primitive form of sleep cycle. But the rise of the industrial age and the birth of electric light has changed this habit, confining sleep to a single period while people continued the day even after the sun went down.
Yet the body’s natural urge for biphasic sleep, for two sets of sleep, remains and it’s why we have the habit of napping that we do today. Napping is more than just a means to appease feelings of tiredness, it’s a habit because it’s natural.
The dangers of being a nap enthusiast
Sleep on it, take a nap and you’ll feel better. This really couldn’t be more true in today’s stressful world. When your nighttime slumber falls just shy of those eight hours, a quick nap is one of the most effective ways to restore alertness, reduce stress and regain energy.
Many of the sleeping habits that evolved during the pandemic have sustained their place in the present day, but some have missed their alarm to leave. We witnessed a huge rise in pro-napping behaviours during the aloneness of this era when much of the time there was little else to do but sleep.
Aided by the popularity of work-from-home schedules, beds and the opportunity to nap are now more accessible than ever. But with this comes the danger of napping too much.
A snooze becomes a lose when the helping is too hefty. So what dangers does overindulgence awaken? Check out these not-so-fun facts about too much napping:
- It weakens the body as pooling c-reactive proteins create more inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- More than 20 minutes can lead to increased grogginess, confusion and irritability by triggering a terrifying condition known as sleep inertia.
- Too much napping takes a toll on the biological circadian cycles and the important role they play in things like glucose management and fertility.
- Paves the way for insomnia and the deterioration of overall sleep quality, having a long-term knock-on effect on mental health.
We’d like to take the opportunity to expand upon this last point here, as we firmly believe that sleep as a whole is at the centre of all of this. Naps whip away tiredness, but oversleeping ensures that it comes back around.
Healthy napping and good sleep
Burning off energy feels great, but as with any combustion process, there’s always a byproduct left over. In this case, it’s something called adenosine. As energy gets used up throughout the day, adenosine begins to accumulate, and it’s this that makes you feel tired.
When levels of adenosine get too high, you go to sleep and give the body a chance to clear away all of its tiredness. A snooze works in exactly the same way, and clears small sections of adenosine as you sleep. But too much anti-adenosine snoozing during the day and there’ll be none left to make you tired when the night starts to set in and insomnia begins to take hold.
For the perfect nap, we’d recommend no longer than 20 minutes. This will allow just enough time for the mind and body to recentre, rest and recuperate without going into the deeper stages of sleep.
There are going to be challenges in actually achieving 20 minutes of quality sleep. You’ll need to be somewhere comfortable, somewhere quiet and most importantly, somewhere dark.
Sleep is at its best in dark environments. And if you’re battling with rogue rays of light, the one thing we swear by is this Contoured 3D Blackout Sleep Mask. This advanced form of sleep protection seals to the face for instant darkness, while its distinguished domed design protects the eyelashes from breakages.
If you’re up for something a little longer, between 60 and 90 minutes will be your target. It gives you just enough time to complete the non-REM stage of the sleep cycle, the deepest and most restorative phase.
In regards to when to take a nap, we always aim for the mid-afteroon; around 2pm. This time aligns with the natural dip in alertness that’s familiar after lunch.
A restful conclusion
The main takeaway from this is that napping isn’t bad for sleep if enjoyed in moderation. Everyone’s sleeping patterns are different, and some may find that napping has no negative effects on their sleep, while others find the opposite.
Above all, snooze sparingly and always be mindful of the duration, frequency and time of your naps. And always keep a SMUG Sleep Mask close to hand.
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