Health

When you take a nap every day, this is what happens to your body

For some people, taking a nap during the day just isn’t an option. Either you’re too busy at work, or the kids are too energetic for you to steal some quality shut-eye during the afternoon. Or perhaps you’re just one of those folks that’s never really been able to fall asleep, even if you’re in a car or on a plane. But for the rest of us, taking a nap is a simple pleasure that we look forward to, either after lunch or before everyone gets home from school. Even if you only pass out for a 20-minute power nap, you know how restorative and comforting your daily doze can be — especially when it’s cool outside, and you can snuggle up in warm blankets. 

To that end, do you find yourself wondering if your napping habit is good for you? Are you curious about what exactly happens to your body when you nap every day? If so, we talked to the experts, so read on to find out!

Taking a nap every day can pay off your sleep debt

You’re probably familiar with the fact that the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night in order to be adequately rested. However, one out of every three Americans isn’t getting enough sleep, according to the CDC. If you’re one of those tired folks in that statistic, chances are you have “sleep debt,” says sleep expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra. “Sleep debt accumulates when you regularly get less sleep than your body needs,” he explained to The List. “The brain has to make up for a part of this loss by sleeping more than normal.” 

Fortunately, there are ways that you can reduce your sleep debt, according to Kansagra. “Naps can be one way of paying off that debt,” he continued. So if your work schedule makes it rough to snag a full eight hours of sleep every night or your pets are determined to interrupt your precious rest, your daily snooze habit can help you make up for the lost time. After all, if you’re not sleeping enough, a lot can happen to your body.

You will feel more rested and relaxed if you nap daily

When you think of the essential things you absolutely need to live, chances are oxygen, water, and food pop to mind. But in addition to these vital, life-giving staples, you also need a healthy amount of rest, as noted by sleep expert Dr. Eric Nofzinger. “Among the more basic drives we have, along with the drive to breathe and to eat, is the fundamental drive for sleep,” he told The List. “This drive builds throughout the day and then is discharged at night during sleep.”

So if you take a nap every day when the sleepies hit you that will help you recalibrate, says Nofzinger. “An increasing sleep drive is felt as a sense of fatigue, sleepiness, or drowsiness, and when extreme it prevents us from focusing and functioning properly during the day,” he continued. If you find yourself tired before it’s remotely close to bedtime, a quick 10 to 15 minute nap can discharge the peak, helping you to stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed throughout the day.

If you want to boost your mood, take a nap every day

It can be difficult to stay cheery when there’s so much going on in the world. After all, juggling work, school, kids, and a partner is a lot, even when things are totally normal. So if you find yourself in need of a boost, try taking a nap every day, says licensed physician Dr. Leann Poston. “Your mood may improve,” she shared with The List. “A short nap may make it easier to regulate your emotions and ward off depression.” And we could all use a bit of that right now.

Additionally, over time you may find that your sleep quality in general is improving, which can put a smile on anyone’s face. “Napping may lead to longer periods of time in restorative slow-wave and REM sleep,” Poston continued. So those benefits can extend long after you take your afternoon siesta, resulting in increased happiness and fewer cranky outbursts. Sign us up!

You can improve your physical stamina if you take a nap every day

Are you training for a marathon or maybe even just a 5K run? Or perhaps this was the year you finally got serious about that daily yoga practice. If either of those is the case — or you practice any kind of sport, really — taking a short snooze every day can improve your athletic abilities, says certified sleep coach Dr. Chris Norris. “You can improve your physical stamina,” he revealed to The List. “Research has shown that the stamina and performance increases in athletes after a 30-minute nap.” Who knew your power nap could help you lift heavier weights?

This is also the case for very serious athletes, who spend hours and hours training every day, starting in the earliest hours of the morning. “Studies have also suggested that naps can be especially beneficial for athletes on a sleep-restricted regimen,” Norris continued.

Ideally, however, athletes should make getting enough sleep every night a priority, according to Verywell Fit. It’s super important for peak performance!

Napping every day can make you more alert

Being present in your daily life is important. That applies whether you’re focused on a work task, driving a car, preparing meals in your kitchen, or giving a presentation. So if you need to cultivate some energetic focus in your life, try taking a nap every day, says sleep expert Dr. Eric Nofzinger. “Alertness varies directly as a function of the buildup of sleep drive across the day,” he explained to The List. “Alertness is highest in the morning following a good night of sleep, and tends to be lowest in the afternoon as the sleep drive builds.” That’s usually when the urge to catch some Zs hits, too.

Why is it so important to be alert anyway? “Being alert allows our bodies and minds to function at their peak capacity resulting in a feeling of high productivity,” Nofzinger continued. That means you will be able to put your absolute best foot forward in any situation, no matter what it may be.

Want to lose weight? Take a nap every day

According to the CDC, nearly half of all American adults are trying to lose weight, with more women than men hoping to shed unwanted pounds. As to what people are doing to slim down? They’re either eating less food; eating more vegetables, fruits, and salads; or exercising more (or some combination of the three).

While those are fairly obvious ways you can make the number on the scale go down, taking a nap every day might help too, as noted by sleep expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra. “Weight and hunger have been linked to sleep,” he told The List. “Sleep deprivation is associated with increased caloric intake and higher weight.”

So what’s the specific mechanism at work here? According to licensed physician Dr. Leann Poston, when you’re tired, you might not make the best food decisions. But if you’re well-rested from an afternoon siesta? “When your stress level goes down and you’re not tired, you’re less likely to snack out of boredom or fatigue,” she revealed. And that, of course, can help you lose excess weight.

Your job performance may improve if you nap daily

We get it. It can be pretty tough to work these days, especially if you’re doing so from home, while also contending with family members and kids who are learning virtually. Or perhaps you’re working outside of the home and sometimes find it tricky to focus when you’re dealing with a host of other concerns. Either way, you can’t really win, which means your productivity may suffer.

However, there’s one thing you can do that might help; if you take a nap every day, your job performance may improve, says licensed physician Dr. Leann Poston. “A short nap can allow the brain to more quickly rid itself of metabolic waste and more efficiently use glucose,” she shared with The List. “The end result is a faster working brain that performs better.” And who doesn’t need that right?

Of course, it might be tough to convince your boss to let you pass out for half an hour in the break room. But hey, if it results in a better job performance, maybe they’ll listen to reason, especially if you teach them the best time of day to take a nap!

Worried about burnout? Take a nap every day

Just as you may find yourself struggling to focus when you’re at work, so too might you find yourself on the edge of burnout. To that end, if you’re trying to keep yourself together before you end up collapsing in a heap, try taking a nap every day. This is especially the case if you work on a computer, according to certified sleep coach Dr. Chris Norris. “You can avoid burnout because a nap gives our brain’s visual nerve centers a break,” he told The List. “With the amount of time we all spend looking at screens each day, the information overload wears away at our mental storage.” He’s not lying.

It doesn’t even take much time out of your schedule to beat back the burnout demons, though an extended nap may be even more beneficial, says Norris. “A good 10-to-15-minute nap is optimal for giving a quick boost to alertness and general mental performance,” he continued. Norris added that snoozing for 60 to 90 minutes can be as effective as getting an entire night’s sleep when it comes to the brain learning a visual perception skill.

If you take a nap every day, you’ll be better at problem solving

What comes to your mind when you think about problem solving? Do you immediately conjure an image of your high school math teacher? Or are you more pragmatic, picturing yourself multitasking at a time when you have far too many things to do? Certainly both of those options are legit, as each of them come with their own special set of conundrums and challenges.

Even if you’re not a math instructor, or if you’re actually having a relatively easy time with things as of late, you may want to take a nap every day nonetheless. That’s because dozing off in the daytime can help keep you sharp, as noted by licensed physician Dr. Leann Poston. “You may find it much easier to solve problems,” she shared with The List. “Letting your mind wander as you think about a problem and go to sleep may result in a more creative solution than you would have been able to come up with if you stayed awake and concentrating.” Who knew?

Napping every day can benefit your brain

You don’t need to be a neurologist to understand that brain health is important. Given that your noodle is responsible for a wide variety of crucial tasks — including memory, cognition, body function regulation, organ function, and so much more, as noted by Healthline — you want to make sure that you’re prioritizing brain health when it matters.

One way that you can do just that is by napping every day, says global health expert Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani. “Naps of 20 to 40 minutes will improve psychomotor performance and alertness, improve reaction and reflexes, and reduce confusion,” he explained to The List. “Less than ten minutes and more than 30 to 40 minutes of napping has lower benefits.” That’s all the more reason to schedule a siesta during the day.

What happens if you’re napping for longer than that? You may struggle with cognition, as noted by Dr. Charlene Gamaldo, medical director of Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. “I consider napping to be a good thing, but it needs to be taken in the context of the person and his or her own sleep cycles and body,” she told Johns Hopkins Medicine.

If you have insomnia, don’t take a nap every day

While napping every day can be a truly pleasurable experience for those of us who do it on the reg, not everything about it is completely beneficial for every person. For one, according to sleep expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra, you may find that napping interferes with your sleep schedule. “If you are not sleep-deprived, then typically the amount you nap during the day will be taken out from the amount your body will sleep at night,” he revealed to The List. “This may translate into a later bedtime, an earlier wake time, or even disrupted sleep with nighttime awakenings.” And that’s not something you need, on top of everything else.

Additionally, there are some folks that Kansagra says shouldn’t have a napping habit, especially if it’s on a regular basis. “For insomniacs that can’t sleep well at night, we routinely advise against napping, as this makes getting to sleep at night even harder,” he continued. Talk about a delicate balance.

Is napping good for your heart health?

According to the World Health Organization, the No. 1 cause of death around the world is cardiovascular disease. That’s also the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, as noted by the CDC.

Given those alarming statistics, you’re probably curious about the impact taking a nap every day has on your heart health. Well, wonder no more, as sleep expert Dr. Reena Mehra broke it down after looking at the data. “Individuals who were napping maybe two or three times a week had improved cardiovascular events and a lowering of these cardiovascular events, compared to those who weren’t napping or [were] napping more frequently,” Mehra told the Cleveland Clinic.

However, that doesn’t mean that the act of frequent long napping in and of itself is what’s hurting your good old ticker. Rather this kind of napping every day could be an indicator that you’re dealing with an underlying sleep issue, and that’s what causes the adverse health impacts.

You may feel groggy after your daily nap

Most of the time when you wake up from your daily nap, you’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to conquer what lies in front of you. But sometimes — and this has happened to us all at some point — when you wake up, you feel disoriented. You may wonder where you are and have a warped sense of time. Plus, you feel just plain groggy. 

As it turns out, there’s a reason for that, says Christopher Lindholst, chief executive of Metronaps. “If you nap for longer than [20 minutes], you go into a deeper stage of sleep,” he explained in a chat with Forbes. “It’s not bad for you to nap for longer, but you experience a lot more [of] what’s called sleep inertia.” And that’s what makes you feel so groggy upon awakening.

To that end, try to make sure you hit the sweet spot during your siesta, and don’t plan to doze for hours.

Talk to your doctor if you take a nap every day

If you’re someone who naturally grabs a quick power nap every day, you don’t need to fight the urge when the sleepies hit, says psychologist Dr. Sara Mednick. “These people — and they probably account for about 40 percent of the population — tend to do really poorly if they don’t nap,” she shared in an interview with Time magazine. She noted, “For these people, skipping their nap is a huge productivity killer.” So don’t do it!

If you’re not inclined to take a siesta every afternoon but want to cash in on the health benefits, fear not: Mednick says you can teach yourself to nap. And you can learn how to take a nap and not let it ruin a night’s sleep. Of course, you don’t want to force it, especially if your sleep schedule is on point. “Everyone’s different,” she continued. “If you feel good, whatever you’re doing is fine.”

As always, the best way to figure out what’s optimal for your unique body is to talk to your doctor. She’ll know what’s best for you.

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