To Nap or Not to Nap – Preparing for Daylight Savings

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

Would you ever think that Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, and Presidents Kennedy and Reagan had something in common? In fact, each of them enjoyed a regular nap.

Many people find that a 20 – 30 minute nap is restorative, especially during the normal afternoon circadian ‘dip’ that usually occurs between 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. Napping can help maintain or even increase alertness and performance, sharpen memory and reduce symptoms of fatigue, especially during long periods of being awake.

A nap can also help people adjust to the hour of sleep lost when Daylight Saving Time returns, at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, March 11. However, napping, in general, is no substitute for a good night’s sleep, says the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the Red Hot Mamas®.

“Naps can help people boost their alertness and performance – IF they are healthy and usually get sufficient sleep at night. But naps will not reverse total sleep debt and shouldn’t be thought of as a substitute for a good night’s sleep,” says Mark Rosekind, PhD, an NSF director. “If you get sufficient sleep at night on a regular basis, you should not need a regular daytime nap,” he adds. Dr. Rosekind is president and chief scientist of Alertness Solutions in Cupertino, CA, which specializes in fatigue management issues.

While napping isn’t a widespread occurrence at U.S. workplaces, one-third of respondents in NSF’s 2000 Sleep in America poll said they would nap at work if it was allowed. NSF’s 2005 poll found that more than one-thirdof America’s adults take two or more naps a week, and these last an average of 50 minutes.

Rosekind recommends a nap of around 30 minutes. “Even a shorter nap can take the edge off of sleepiness but you want to avoid getting into a deep sleep, which can occur after a longer nap of around an hour, causing you to awake groggy instead of feeling refreshed,” he notes. This sleep inertia or grogginess and disorientation that can occur when you awake from a deep sleep usually disappears in l0 – l5 minutes, but the accompanying lack of alertness can be critical at the workplace or when engaged in other activities such as driving.

If and when you nap, Dr. Rosekind and the National Sleep Foundation offer the following tips:

  • Determine an optimal nap time. Try not to nap too late in the day which can disrupt your nighttime sleep. If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, don’t nap during the day.
  • Find the right environment. Make the most out of your nap time and avoid surrounding distractions.
  • Find a quiet place, block out light and noise; use an eye mask and/or ear plugs if necessary.
  • Be sure to make a good night’s sleep a regular daily activity – on average, between seven to nine hours are recommended for most adults. Establishing this regular sleep habit may help you kick a nap habit. Do you know your real sleep need? Try to determine how many hours of nightly sleep you need to be alert and at your best performance throughout the day; then establish a nightly routine and make time for your needed sleep.

Here are some additional tips to help adjust to the return of Daylight Saving Time:

  • Try to sleep a bit more than usual a few nights prior to and immediately following the time change to help reduce any sleep debt you may be carrying.
  • Take a nap in the afternoon on Sunday if you need it, but not within a few hours of your regular bedtime. Remember, napping too close to bedtime can disrupt nighttime sleep.
  • The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting sleep-related education, research, and advocacy.

The Red Hot Mamas® is an NSF Sleep Awareness Co-Sponsor working with NSF to help raise awareness about the importance of sleep.