Life

Are naps good for you? Experts explain how they affect your sleep

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
Published
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites
power napping pros and cons.

Do you ever feel guilty about napping? Are you worried they are bad for your overall sleep health? We asked sleep experts for the full lowdown on napping to get some answers.

I have a secret to share: I’m a napper. I nap after work. I disco nap before a big night out. I nap on lazy weekend afternoons. I nap in the park instead of reading my book

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t do it everyday (and I’d advise anyone who does doze off on a daily basis chat to their GP). But if I’m feeling tired, especially in the recent heatwave, I’ll easily nod off for half an hour or so. And yet, I’m always too embarrassed to tell people this. 

For some reason, I’ve always thought naps are bad for us; they mean I’m lazy and wasting time. Friends have confirmed this by pulling faces at me and proudly declaring they never nap.

Also, the terrible night’s sleep that I often experience (particularly during this turbulent time of the pandemic) don’t help my case that I think napping is good for me…

You may also like

How to keep your room cool in a heatwave for a better night’s sleep

So are naps good or bad for us? How do they actually affect our night sleep? What does the research say?

Stylist put it to the experts to get some answers. 

You may also like

The perfect bath time and temperature for a good night’s sleep, even in a heatwave

According to James Wilson, aka The Sleep Geek, naps are good for improving our performance, productivity and our alertness. 

This supports research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, which reports that people who nap for 30-90 minutes have better word recall – a sign of good memory.

However, if you want to have a good night’s sleep, Wilson doesn’t recommend napping for any longer than half an hour, especially after 3pm. 

“If you are napping and want to get the most out of it without upsetting your night time sleep, then nap for no more than 30 minutes,” he tells Stylist

“This is what’s known as a power nap: it will give you an increase in alertness and productivity, and they can be a god send to shift workers, parents of young children and for some of the athletes I work with.”

He warns: “When you start getting to an hour and a half or more, that becomes more of a day time sleep and is more likely to impact on your night time sleep.”

napping
Napping: is it good or bad for you?

Sally Bonser from sleep specialist brand nanu also agrees that naps can be incredibly important for our overall health, explaining that it can help reduce stress and even keep your heart healthy. 

In fact, just last year, the NHS shared research from University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, which showed that afternoon naps may lower heart attack and stroke risk. 

“While we do still recommend that you aim for the seven to nine hours a night mark, there is certainly a place for naps during the day,” says Bonser. “If you’ve had a disturbed sleep the night before or even just feel you need a little rest, we see no harm in having a snooze in the daytime.”

Like Wilson, she says the best time to take a nap is between 2pm and 3pm, when our energy starts to lag. But, she argues to only nap for 20 minutes maximum, so that “you get the quality REM sleep as a quick boost, but not a deep sleep”. 

To help keep track, she suggests setting an alarm rather than letting your body to wake itself up.

You may also like

How to sleep: 5 easy tips to get your sleep schedule back on track as you return to work after lockdown

So there we have it: there is no shame in having a nap. However, it’s clear that we should try not to nap or any longer than 30 minutes and not after 3pm. It’s important to be strict with the timing too, perhaps with the help of an alarm. 

Happy napping!

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…