If you find yourself dozing off to dreamland after lunch each day, you could be experiencing a ‘food coma.’ You could also be like millions of Americans who desperately need a nap.
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While most adults will admit they would like to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, the reality is that they’re getting between five and six, on average.
“They’re probably sleep-deprived,” sleep specialist Charles Bae, MD, says.
To make up for lost sleep, more adults are taking nap which is not necessarily a bad thing according to Dr. Bae.
“Naps are getting more and more recognition as being beneficial to our health – even for our heart and brain,” Dr. Bae says.
Why, when, and for how long you nap can be a telling signal for you to determine whether you really need a nap.
There are three types of naps:
“Planned napping is used when you know you will be up later than your normal bed time,” Dr. Bae says.
Working a single nap into your schedule to accommodate a late night of studying or a weekend celebration will help you stay alert or able to enjoy late-night fun without getting drowsy.
Emergency naps are the most common in our society, Dr. Bae says. You might take an emergency nap to avoid things like drowsy-driving or if you think you’re too tired to work with dangerous tools or machinery.
Repeated emergency-napping may be a sign you’re sleep-deprived.
“If you find you frequently need to take a nap before continuing important activities, you probably need more sleep,” Dr. Bae says.
Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day.
You may or may not remember, but you likely took a lot of naps as a child. Kids typically need more sleep than their parents, but habitual naps have tremendous health benefit for adults too.
“A short nap in the afternoon can increase your cognitive function for the rest of the day,” Dr. Bae says. “Some business executives will admit to closing their office door after lunch to take a quick nap.”
Quick is key when it comes to napping. A recent study found a 10 minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance.
Napping too long or too often can have a negative effect on sleep patterns and cause sleep inertia, which is the feeling of grogginess or disorientation we experience after waking from a deep sleep. Limiting nap time to 10 or 15 minutes makes it easier to hit the ground running when you wake up.
“Your best bet is to get enough sleep each night so that you don’t have take a nap,” Dr. Bae says. “Make sleep a priority.”