Returning from work after a night with little sleep, a nap on that king size pillow top mattress seems as tempting as an apple in Eden, but are midday or evening snoozes a healthy alternative to a long, deep sleep? Naps sometimes carry a reputation for being a mark of laziness, but can they promote well-being? It’s generally accepted that people need anywhere from 7-10 hours of sleep a night, but it’s also a known fact that most Americans don’t get that (or anywhere near it, for that matter). The result is often an accumulated sleep debt and a dependency on caffeine to function, but according to doctors, napping benefits those of us who truly can’t get the recommended amount of sleep at night.
The sensation of feeling rested after a night asleep is caused by the REM sleep, a cycle that repeats itself every four hours to recharge the body. Most people require two complete REM cycles to function at their optimal level throughout the day, but for some, getting eight hours of sleep a night is an impossible dream. Persistent exhaustion and lethargy can then result, but a 90-minute nap or series of short power naps have been found to sustain energy almost as effectively as a long night of dreaming.
Any doctor will acknowledge that sleep debt is a real thing, accumulated after many nights without enough rest. Simply ignoring it, or trying to compensate for it with an excess of sleep once or twice a week can prove damaging to the body. While not as strong a substitute as a full night asleep, allowing the body to nap and rest throughout the day will benefit overall health and mental function. So feel free to enjoy the memory foam mattress set you just bought from the mattress store day or night, because a nap is more about wellness than lethargy.