The modern mortal coil – “To nap, or not to nap?”

Ah, the life of a student. It has its up and down (what with the constant ingestion of process food and highly concentrated coffee). I wouldn’t say “it’s the best life”, but it does have many perks, like staying up to unreasonable hours because you can nap the next day! However, is there any consequence for this behaviour?

Napping, one of the greatest pleasure in life. Sourced from: https://flic.kr/p/UjzxFL

The “napping is bad” part: People who take longer daytime naps (we shall call them: longer nappers) have poorer health, decrease cognitive functions and more likely to die young than those who don’t.

We have all experienced the firsthand miracle that is “adequate” sleep. It’s amazing, but not easily achieved because of today’s social influences. i.e. Facebook never sleep! Until recently, I wouldn’t have thought napping can have serious effects on my health. Yet…

In a 2016 study, researchers had found that daytime napping can increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. More specifically, when you nap more than 60 min a day, you increase your chance of getting type 2 diabetes by 50%. However, we should not believe that napping the worse offence to your body; shorter nap (up to 40 minutes/day) doesn’t increase the risk of diabetes (or obesity and cardiovascular disease).

Other than increased risk of diabetes, longer nappers are just plainly bad at functioning throughout the day. With most physical actions, they are much slower to react. Furthermore, their ability to remember words and using them correctly also decrease drastically.

Quite literally, they become real life zombies.

This might be a good time to say that I do not have any subconscious (or conscious) wish to be the undead. Sourced from: https://flic.kr/p/pZSrtT

Anyway, things just go downhill from here. There are links between long daytime napping and everything else you could think of: irritability, depression, hypertension, increase illness over time and lower quality of night-time sleep.

Just thinking about these negativities makes me regret all those time I drooled on textbooks from my wonderful nap. Let’s talk about the positive aspects of napping!

The “napping is good” part: a short nap can potentially save yours’ and others’ life.

Sleep loss can be caused by prolonged working hours, stress or lifestyle choices. Scientists believe a short nap can counter the effects of sleep loss and improve performance, especially those who work at night time. In a 2004 study, a 40 minutes nap had shown to improve performance in doctors and nurses during night shifts. Not only short naps improve performance during work; it also saves people from car accidents when they drive home.

Accident happens when you’re sleepy. Sourced from: https://flic.kr/p/d6knzC

Other than reducing sleepiness and fatigue, short naps also make you happier, improve your immune system and even makes you less impulsive. In cases of shift workers, napping before and during their shifts can improve reaction time, increase alertness and performance.

What should we do now? The opinion on daytime napping is still divided. So far, the consensus is that the duration of the nap link directly to your health. Whether it is for better or for worse.

Napping is good if you had to work in inconsistent hours. However, if you want to maintain your sleep quality at night, better avoid napping and stick with 7 to 8 hours a night. For me, I think I’ll try to reduce my nap to less than 60 min/day.

 


2 Responses to “The modern mortal coil – “To nap, or not to nap?””

  1. Nancy R. Tran says:

    Sorry for the late reply. I actually have no idea why 60 minutes is the threshold. Most of these studies are done as an observational research, where they found that under 60 min was the magical threshold.
    It is easy to observe and note down results, but I think it would be very hard to pin point down the physiology of our brains when it comes to napping.
    Thanks for your comment!

  2. Jun-Ting Yeung says:

    Nancy, thanks for the information about the risks of napping! Did not think more sleep would ever be bad for you. I assumed that when you yawned / tired, that was your body’s indication that you should get some rest. Any idea why 60 minute is the threshold?