Photo by Kate Berry.
As often as we talk about the benefits of sleep, more than a third of Americans are not getting the proper amount of shut-eye. Instead, we push aside our rest to complete more work, hang out with friends, or—let’s be real—binge another episode of Succession. But even though most of us are still yawning into our coffee cups, taking a nap might be the cure to combat those midday crashes because of its health benefits.
If the thought of adding one more thing to your already busy schedule is making you stress out, you can consider naps as a natural way to recharge for the day. “Taking a nap can enhance your sleep cycle, regulate your sympathetic nervous system, help you think and let go of things that are causing you stress, and be used as a circadian marker to help your body understand where you are in the 24-hour cycle. Like meditation, it can be [used] as a quiet time in the middle of a chaotic day,” says sleep specialist W. Chris Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution.
However, taking a midday nap doesn’t mean you can sleep the day away. To reap most of the benefits, you want to be mindful of the amount of time you plan to hit the hay. “Note that some studies suggest allowing yourself to go through one full sleep cycle (which is about 90 minutes) [to receive the most benefits]. Ideally, you should avoid waking up in the deep sleep stage,” says John Breese, a sleep science coach and founder of Happy Sleepy Head.
In any case, whether you’re thinking of taking a nap to break up the hours or steal a few minutes away from work (sorry, boss!), below are all the amazing benefits your body can receive by taking a nap every single day.
After One Day
While you may want to sneak a small nap into your day, you might have a hard time getting a little shut-eye if it’s not something your body is used to doing. “On your first day, you’ll probably have no trouble falling asleep at all, especially if you sleep less than eight hours a night. But once you wake up from napping, you may feel the first benefits—a clear mind and restored alertness,” says Breese.
However, make sure you don’t oversleep. Sleeping more than the recommended time on the first day can backfire and make you feel groggy and tired. “The recommended nap duration is 20 to 30 minutes,” Breese adds. “If you sleep beyond that on your first day, you are likely to wake up to the opposite effect, which may discourage you from ever continuing to take consistent naps.”
After One Week
“This period is going to be the hardest, as you will have to constantly adjust your regular schedule to fit the naps in. Your body may have a hard time getting used to this new activity, too,” says Breese. The good news is, once you figure out the ideal schedule to incorporate a daily 20- or 90-minute nap into your routine, you’ll begin to notice the benefits almost instantaneously.
“It won’t be long until you start noticing that concentrating has become easier, your attention span has increased, your motor skills and accuracy have improved, and your overall mood and energy levels are higher than usual,” he says.
After One Month
According to Breese, one month of napping can make a huge difference in your professional and personal life. When taken the right way, naps can “improve memory, boost creativity, and enhance emotional control and stamina. All of these things can help you achieve more in your career and build healthy personal relationships,” explains Breese. Wait, naps can actually make you more productive? Count us in.
After Six Months
Basically, adding a nap into your daily routine will give your body a major health boost. After six months, the long-term benefits of napping kick in. Breese notes one study on Greek adults that found a short nap during the day reduces the risks of dying from heart disease and regularly getting more rest may increase your sex drive. “Overall, napping can help you get on a more consistent schedule, and research finds the consistency to be extremely beneficial for your sleep,” says Breese.