This weekend, people across the country will “spring ahead” and set their clocks forward an hour in observance of daylight savings. What’s that mean? As DST starts, the sun will rise and set later than it did the day before. While the change, in theory, helps us make better use of daylight, it also leaves many people feeling drowsy.
Luckily, the following day has officially been designated “National Napping Day,” and it’s the perfect time to catch some much-needed Zs.
Types of Naps
You may have thought that a nap is simply a quick afternoon sleep session, but as it turns out, naps can be categorized depending on the function they serve. According to the Sleep Foundation, there are five main types:
- Recovery Nap: Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling tired the following day. If you are up late or have interrupted sleep one night, you might take a recovery nap the next day to compensate for sleep loss.
- Prophylactic Nap: This type of nap is taken in preparation for sleep loss. For example, night shift workers may schedule naps before and during their shifts in order to prevent sleepiness and to stay alert while working.
- Appetitive Nap: Appetitive naps are taken for the enjoyment of napping. Napping can be relaxing and can improve your mood and energy level upon waking.
- Fulfillment Nap: Children have a greater need for sleep than adults. Fulfillment naps are often scheduled into the days of infants and toddlers and can occur spontaneously in children of all ages.
- Essential Nap: When you are sick, you have a greater need for sleep. This is because your immune system mounts a response to fight infection or promote healing, and that requires extra energy. Naps taken during illness are considered essential.
How to Take the Best Nap
If you want to get the most out of your nap, there are some Do’s and Don’ts. Napping at the wrong time of day or for too long can leave you unable to sleep later at night. Here’s what you need to know:
- Keep naps short. Aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes. The longer you sleep, the more likely you are to feel groggy after you wake up.
- Nap in the early afternoon. Napping after 3 pm can interfere with sleep later at night.
- Create a restful environment. A dark, quiet room at a comfortable temperature is best. Blackout curtains can help eliminate unwanted light, while a white noise machine can drown out any household commotion.
Benefits of Napping
There’s no need to feel lazy for indulging in daytime sleep. As it turns out, a nap can have dozens of health benefits including improved memory, better job performance, and increased alertness. Here are a few more:
- It may lift your mood. Experts say that napping, or simply laying down for an hour, can help improve your outlook on life, whether or not you actually fall asleep.
- It can ease stress. Just 30 minutes of sleep can help decrease anxiety and improve your immune health.
- Sleep is good for your heart. One study found that people who napped for 45 to 60 minutes had lower blood pressure after going through mental stress.
- Naps can help you sleep better at night. Although it seems counterintuitive, sleeping during the day, combined with light to moderate exercise, can improve nighttime rest.