In the West, with some exceptions, napping is often seen as a luxury, a time stolen from work or other activities, and can be stigmatized as laziness.
Spanish office hours allow for a nap time, and people return to work around 3:00 P.M or 4:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. The government is trying unsuccessfully to change this habit so that civil servants’ working hours can end at 6:00 P.M.
In Japan, many companies have set up spaces on their premises for the more or less compulsory nap of their employees, while some Quebec (Canada) hotels and motels advertise “nap” rates for the rent of a room for a few hours.
Nap is called hsiuhsi or rest, usually involving deep sleep, that occurs at any time between 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. in China. A bed is preferred, but any flat surface will do.
However, regardless of the cultures and practices, the length of time, position of sleep, and other specific factors can affect the health outcomes of a nap.
While optimal sleeping patterns may still be up for debate, the science seems to show that you don’t need to feel too guilty about sneaking away for a quick after-lunch snooze. You essentially get or enjoy:
▪ Reduced fatigue.
▪ Increased alertness.
▪ Improved mood.
▪ Improved performance (by 20%), including quicker reaction time and better memory, logical reasoning, and the ability to complete complex tasks.
A nap restores concentration and energy, and puts you in a good mood. This practice is useful for effectively combating the stress accumulated during the day.
For example, a nap of 20 minutes taken between 2:00 P.M. and 2:20 P.M. is more effective, reduces subjective fatigue, improves the level of performance and has a positive effect on alertness. The effects linger much longer (125 minutes) than during a noon nap. Moreover, the optimal length of a nap is 10 minutes, with effects lasting up to 155 minutes.
Therefore, keep naps short. Aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes.
Napping isn’t for everyone. Some people simply can’t sleep during the day or have trouble sleeping in places other than their own beds.
After napping, give yourself time to wake up to avoid feeling groggy afterward, before resuming activities, and particularly those that require a quick or sharp response.
Dependency on naps, rather than consistent nighttime sleep, can contribute to fragmented sleep or sleep disorders such as insomnia. Furthermore, excessive napping can be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder which is linked to an increase in stress and weight regulation hormones that can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, all risk factors for heart disease.
Experts typically recommend that adults take naps eight or more hours before bedtime. For most people, that means napping before 3:00 P.M.
A study published in the Obesity Research Journal found that longer naps were associated with an array of negative impacts on one’s health.
Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston evaluated the sleep and health patterns of 3,275 adults from the Spanish region of Murcia, where siestas (afternoon naps often after lunch) are part of the culture.
Of the thousands of adults that participated in the study, 35% took siestas often, with 16% of them usually snoozing for 30 minutes or more.
Compared to those who did not doze off during the day, long siesta-takers were found to have a higher body mass index (BMI), waist size, higher blood pressure and an overall prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MetS), all of which are linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
However, those who rested for less than 30 minutes (power nap) did not appear to have an increased risk for obesity and these other metabolic concerns.
But, this study also indicated that although nap duration is relevant in obesity or MetS, timing of nighttime sleep and eating, energy intake at lunch, cigarette smoking, and nap location mediated this association.