Are Naps Good for You?

March 19, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

David Goldstein, M.D. contributes to topics such as Sleep Medicine, Pulmonology.

By David Goldstein, M.D.

Sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body. You feel better, perform better at work and enjoy your days more when you are well rested. And without quality sleep on a regular basis, you’re at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. But where do naps come in?

Pros and Cons of Napping

Brief naps, 20-30 minutes a day, can be beneficial for relieving stress and improving alertness. People report feeling less irritable, less easily frustrated and less impulsive when they nap.

While naps may be recommended to treat jet lag and even some sleep disorders, it is vital to keep in mind that naps are not a substitute for the restorative stages of sleep that can only occur during prolonged hours of sleeping. No number of naps is going to replace the benefits of nightly deep sleep.

More research on sleep is still needed for us to understand what actually occurs during our daily and nightly ritual of closing our eyes. If your doctor gives you a clean bill of health and you still want to take a daytime nap, consider these tips:

  • Limit your nap to 20 to 30 minutes to avoid feeling groggy when you awaken—a condition called sleep inertia. This can leave you more apt to make mistakes and have accidents shortly after waking up.
  • No naps after 3 p.m. Late day naps may interrupt your ability to fall asleep at night.
  • Nap in an environment conducive to rest so you can benefit from your nap. Dim lights, a comfy chair and disconnecting from electronics will pave the way for quality zzz’s.

If You Rely on a Nap…

If you can’t get through the day without taking a nap, nearly every day, you might have an undiagnosed health condition. It could be a sleep disorder and/or some other medical situation and you should see your doctor for an evaluation.

Some additional symptoms that deserve a closer look by your doctor include:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • awakening with a brief feeling of choking
  • leg movements that disrupt your ability to fall asleep
  • insomnia
  • sleepwalking
  • waking up feeling that you didn’t get enough sleep

It’s common that a partner who shares the bed will express concerns and encourage you to get a sleep evaluation, since many of these symptoms may disrupt their sleep as well.

Resources & Next Steps

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.