Napping is Science-Based: 21 Reasons You Should Do It

According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 85 percent of mammals sleep for short periods throughout the day. We are the odd ones out.

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 40 percent of us get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, despite our days being divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness.

Taking a nap won't make up for our sleep deficit, but it can certainly improve our productivity, enjoyment of activities, and overall well-being. Before we discuss the health benefits, take a look at NSF's nap tips.

A nap can be classified into three categories.

1. Napping planned or preparatory:

To prepare for an overnight shift or three-night bender, some of us strategically take a nap before we feel sleepy.

2. Emergency napping: 

Serial nappers and those who work with heavy, dangerous machinery or drive trucks.

3. Habitual napping: 

For those who love siestas and sleep at the same time every day, including young children who nap after juice and cookies.

NSF recommends naps of 20-30 minutes for short-term alertness. Just be sure you don't take one too early or late in the day; your body may not be ready for sleep yet early in the morning, and taking one late in the evening can throw off your natural sleep patterns, disrupting your restorative sleep throughout the night. Power naps aren't reserved for the elderly, children, or the lazy. They can even help counteract laziness.

1. Your mood will improve

There's new scientific evidence that taking a nap at midday boosts your mood, but you probably already knew that. According to a study of more than 1,000 participants, 66% of those who napped for 30 minutes or less during the day reported feeling happier than those who took longer naps (over 30 minutes), or none at all.

2. Boost your alertness

A 20-30 minute nap can boost short-term alertness, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It won't leave you grumpy or interfere with sleep later at night.

3. Keeping your mind healthy will prevent mental exhaustion

A midday snooze shouldn’t be frowned upon or chalked up to laziness. Studies show that a nap can reverse information overload and protect your brain from mental burnout. After completing two of four visual task sessions on a computer, subjects who took a 30-minute nap prevented deterioration of their performance, while subjects who took a one-hour nap actually improved their performance in the third and fourth sessions.

4. You'll survive the slump

The midday slump is programmed into our circadian schedule, so it's only natural to feel an onset of sleepiness around 3 p.m. According to Harvard Health Publications, napping is the most effective method for getting past the midday slump. After afternoon sleepiness, napping restored alertness better than preemptive sleep and caffeine.

5. By doing this, you'll avoid mistakes

According to the National Sleep Foundation, napping can help you perform better at work and reduce mistakes and accidents. According to NASA, a 40-minute nap improved the performance of sleepy military pilots and astronauts by 34 percent and their alertness by 100 percent.

6. As a result, you will have lower blood pressure

According to a press release from the European Society of Cardiology, midday naps appear to lower blood pressure levels and reduce the number of antihypertensive medications needed. As compared to patients who did not sleep midday, those who slept 60 minutes had significantly lower blood pressure. Researchers also find that midday sleep reduces blood pressure throughout the day, improves fall of blood pressure at night, and reduces artery and heart damage. Increasing the duration of midday sleep lowers systolic blood pressure levels, which means fewer drugs are required to lower blood pressure.”

7. It will boost your memory

Independent reports that 41 students were tested on the power napping theory at Saarland University. They divided the group in half, taught each 90 words and 120 unrelated word pairs (like “milk taxi”), then allowed one half to nap for 45-60 minutes while the other watched a DVD. The study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, found that the snoozers' memories were five-fold amplified. 
8. Your creativity will be amplified

The Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown University in Washington found that, during naps, the left brain, responsible for logic and analysis, rests and is relatively at peace quietly, while the right brain, responsible for creativity and big-picture thinking, communicates with itself and with each other. You thought napping was mindless, didn't you?

9. By doing so, you'll strengthen your immune system.

Sleep deprivation can help your immune system, according to a small study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. As part of the study, 11 young, healthy men were asked to provide urine and saliva samples every day in order to measure the level of norepinephrine, which increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and raises blood sugar and blood pressure when under stress. After sleeping normally for one night, half of the men were restricted to two hours the next night, and on the third night, they could sleep whatever they wanted. The other half followed the same schedule, with the exception that they were allowed to take a 30-minute nap the following day. Compared to when the men were allowed to sleep normally, their norepinephrine levels were more than doubled (in the afternoon) when they were allowed to sleep for two hours. When participants slept, norepinephrine levels did not change.

10. You will benefit your heart by doing this

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Athens Medical School in Greece found that those who took afternoon siestas at least three times a week had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who didn't. Scientific American reports that 23,681 seemingly healthy men and women, ages 20 to 86, participated in the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, for over six years.

11. You'll be able to curb cravings


A UC Berkley study found that junk food cravings are linked to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep impairs activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which governs complex decision-making, and increases activity in deeper reward centers of the brain, so you reach for cronuts and pierogis instead of steamed veggies and salmon when you don't get enough shuteye.

12. Brain toxins will be flushed out

While we sleep, our brains are clearing out the toxic waste that accumulates throughout the day. According to a study published in Science, mice napped to increase the space between their brain cells by 60 percent, allowing cerebrospinal fluid, along with an Alzheimer's-linked protein, to circulate through the brain more quickly. When they were woken, their brains were constrained in flow.

13. Your hunger hormones will be suppressed


You usually get hungry when you're tired because your body tells you to take in energy, while sleeping, your body reduces levels of ghrelin, your hunger hormone. A study in the journal PLoS Medicine showed a strong correlation between short sleep duration and high levels of hunger-inducing ghrelin, low levels of satisfaction-inducing leptin, and higher rates of obesity. Take a quick nap instead of reaching for a Snickers bar.

14. There will be less fighting between you and others

A two-week survey was administered by Berkeley University to participants. Each morning when they awoke, they recorded how well and how long they slept the previous night, and each night before they went to bed, they said whether or how much they had argued with their partner. People who slept poorly the night before bickered more, as you can imagine.

15. Learn faster and more effectively

When it comes to learning and retaining information, you need all the help you can get, whether you're learning a new job or pursuing a graduate degree. The University of California found that naps clear temporary brain storage areas, allowing your brain to absorb new information more easily. After completing a challenging task at midday, half of the volunteers napped for 1.5 hours while the rest stayed awake at 2 p.m. In the afternoon, the nappers performed better than those who did not nap.
16. You'll be able to make better decisions

You might want to take a nap before heading out for a long night of drinking and debauchery: Sleep deprivation can make you think a woman likes you when she's not. Hendrix College researchers asked 60 men and women to fill out a questionnaire before and after one night of sleep deprivation—to which they answered questions regarding sexual interest, sexual intent, commitment, and a general interest in the opposite sex. When men were limited on the number of hours spent sleeping, they were more interested in casual sex (average scores rose from 13.5 to 17.5). You have a negative impact on your frontal lobe when you do not get enough sleep—which controls judgment, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior.

17. As a result, your risk of injury will be reduced

CDC statistics indicate that sleep-deprived people are more likely to be involved in car accidents, industrial disasters, medical errors, and other workplace accidents. Taking a nap after a night of fitful sleep or no sleep at all can literally save your life.

18. You'll be more likely to protect yourself from chronic diseases

The risk of developing diseases like hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer increases if you do not get enough sleep on a chronic basis. Also, reports published in Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation from the National Institutes of Health indicate that you are at greater risk of mortality and reduced quality of life. While napping won't fully compensate for your sleep deficit, it can be helpful.

19. This will help you maintain a high level of testosterone

A University of Chicago Medicine study found that sleep lowers testosterone levels in healthy young men. Subjects were given three nights of sleep in a laboratory, followed by eight nights of sleeping less than five hours. In the last day of the 10-hour sleep phase and the last day of the five-hour sleep phase, researchers sampled their blood every 15-30 minutes for 24 hours. They experienced a 10% to 15% drop in T levels after just one week of sleep deprivation. Be sure to get sufficient sleep before date night if you want to maintain your energy, concentration, and boners.

20. Having more self-control will make you more productive

When employees were given time and space to nap during work, caffeine, overtime restrictions, and frequent breaks during work, they were better able to control their impulsive behavior and resist “unethical temptations” (i.e. telling your boss off), according to their new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

21. Mental disorders and anxiety will be a thing of the past


Researchers at the University of California have shown that sleep deprivation may increase your odds of developing a full-blown anxiety disorder if you are groggy and edgy during the day you don’t get sufficient sleep and regions in your brain that contribute to excessive worrying and anxiety light up. Naps can calm your brain temporarily, but make sure to get a full night’s worth of restorative sleep to keep your brain sharp.

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