You might have wondered, are naps really of benefit to us?
Are we designed to nap during the day? The thing is, most people aim to get their recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep in one long stretch that night.
The technical term for this is monophasic sleep. In other words, a single bout of sleep at night.
However, we may not have been programmed to sleep in this way. Now I’m sure you’ve had that experience of a drop in your alertness in the afternoon, when you start to feel a little sleepy.
You can also see the drop in other people as well, as the heads begin sort of popping up and down during afternoon meetings.
Now you may think this afternoon drop in your alertness is because of a big lunch, but in actual fact, it seems to be hardwired.
If an electrode is place on your head, there is a reliable pre-programmed drop in your brain’s alertness during the afternoon.
It happens to most of us somewhere between the 1 – 4pm mark.
What this suggests is that human being may have been designed to sleep in a biphasic pattern. This means one longer bouts of sleep at night and then a short afternoon nap during the day. very much like the siesta cultures around the world.
You might think is napping always good for my health? Well, not necessarily, although scientists have discovered that naps can have benefits for both the brain and for the body.
Naps can be a double-edged sword. Long naps in the afternoon or in the early evening can just take the edge off your sleepiness. It’s a little bit like snacking before your main meal.
If you are struggling with sleep at night, the best advice is not to nap during the day.
Instead, build up all of that whole thing sleepiness so that you give yourself the best chance of falling asleep easily and then staying asleep soundly across the night.
If you’re not struggling with sleep and you can nap regularly during the day the naps of around 20 minutes taken early in the day can be just fine.
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