Napping often gets a bad rap. If taking a 30-minute nap after a long day at school is a threat to productivity and inessential to a good night’s sleep, then the stereotype surrounding it is well deserved. However, recent studies have shown that napping may deserve more credit than it is given.
“Daytime napping is an early indicator of underlying ill health,” claims Yue Leng, a sleep researcher at the University of Cambridge. Leng, similar to many other professionals, believes that although day-drowsiness is a symptom of health issues, it is not their cause. A common misconception has formed around this irrational fear, causing adults to avoid taking naps in efforts to protect their health. Dr. Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, researches sleep and its effects. She found that a nap, considered to be 15 to 90 minutes of daytime sleeping, improves brain function in memory, creativity, and focus. A little daytime snooze can help you relax, re-energize your willpower, and reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation.
Napping can be especially beneficial for high-school and college students. Teenagers are notorious for not getting enough sleep. Studies show that 60 to 70% of American teens live with a borderline to severe sleep debt. The average high-school student is meant to receive 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day. A proper amount of sleep is crucial for teenagers whose brains are still developing and therefore, rely on enough energy to get through an 8 hour school day. Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University and director of chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital, explains that sleep deprivation puts teens in a sort of cloud, or haze, that can have a negative impact on their mood, capacity to think, react, regulate their emotions, learn, and interact with adults. The ability to exert self-control – over one’s emotions, impulses, and mood — goes hand in hand with a lack of sleep. Ryan Meldrum, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Florida International University, found that poor sleep quality is linked to aggression, impulsivity, and being short-tempered. With teenagers’ natural mood-swings and hormonal imbalances, their aggression and ability to exert self-control is already lower than it should be. This lack of impulse control can affect teenagers’ decision-making, raising the rates of substance abuse in teenagers.
Getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep in a 24-hour day is a long stretch for students. Between school, extra-curricular activities, homework, and exercise, they are left with minimal time to take care of themselves. Sleep-deprived teenagers would benefit from naps. Students only getting five hours of sleep were given a 1 and ½ hour nap at 2pm, and were put to the test to find just how beneficial naps can be. It was found that the students who napped did a better job remembering facts and pictures for a test versus students who sleep over 6 hours a night. Moreover, the benefits of napping have been so extensive that some districts in Chicago and New Mexico have been experimenting with allowing students to have rest periods and even make areas for students to take naps in.
Next time you feel drained and are experiencing difficulty concentrating, consider taking a power nap. You may find yourself waking up feeling re-energized and more productive.
“After a long night, concentrating in school all day can be difficult, and taking naps after school has helped me focus on homework better.” -Eva Gelb, 10th Grade
“The Mishna Brura (4:36) refers to the Machatzis Hashekel as having stated: ‘The matter of sleeping during the day depends on who the person is and on what he needs to best serve Hashem.’” -Rabbi Elie Ganz