7 Scientific Reasons for Napping

Among the main scientific reasons for napping, we find physical aspects, among which the prevention of cardiovascular diseases stands out. It also has a positive impact on a mental and emotional level.
7 Scientific Reasons for Napping

Last update: 16 December, 2022

If you’re one of those people who like to sleep in the middle of the day, you’ll be happy to know that there are scientific reasons for napping. Of course, to be fully effective, you have to know how to do it right. Otherwise, you may have trouble falling asleep at regular times.

You may consider taking a nap if you’ve experienced fatigue or drowsiness after not having slept well the night before. The same is true if work or studying has prevented you from sleeping enough hours at night. Although it’s important for your nightly sleep to be optimal, it’s understandable that there are factors that can prevent it. That’s when the coveted naps appear.

The reasons for napping

A woman yawning while driving.
Being sleepy all the time isn’t good!

One of the reasons for napping is to be able to replace the sleep that was interrupted during the night. Many times, the noise outside, the intake of heavy foods, or watching a movie causes your usual schedule to be delayed, the consequences of which appear the next day.

If you have got up very early, it’s normal that a couple of hours later, you feel tired and sleepy. Those are the signals your body sends to let you know that it needed a little more sleep.

Now, in many countries, experts say that naps have nothing to do with a bad night. It’s a habit after lunch and is credited with better digestion. However, the reason why the body becomes drowsy between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm could be related to the brain’s need to take a short break.

The 7 scientific reasons for napping

Science has spoken. There are scientifically based reasons for napping. Among them, its impact on a physical, cerebral, and emotional level stands out. We’ll tell you more!

1. Napping prevents cardiovascular diseases

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. In low- and middle-income countries, 80% of deaths are related to heart disease.

Studies have indicated that sleep deprivation is one of the causes of different diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it’s very helpful to take a nap to recover lost sleep.

Of course, it’s important to be careful with excess sleep during the day, as it should never completely replace nighttime sleep or become a definitive habit.

2. Regulates blood pressure

Research has shown that during naps, people report better blood pressure values than during nighttime sleep. In those cases in which a person has been exposed to some type of stress or psychological tension, it’ll be very useful to take a nap of between 45 to 55 minutes, thus reducing blood pressure.

3. Reduces the risk of obesity

Much has been said about the role of sleep as a risk for obesity. The truth is that a study by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI ) has confirmed that when a person doesn’t sleep well, they have a greater probability of gaining weight and becoming obese and diabetic.

This could be related to the action of the hormones that are released during sleep in the control and use of energy by the body. Among other things, there’s also an association with the need for people to consume foods high in calories and sugar to stay awake.

Now, if you suffer from any of the sleep disorders that prevent you from sleeping comfortably at night, you can take a nap. Yes, this shouldn’t be taken after 3:00 pm, nor should it last more than an hour. This is what the experts at the NHLBI say.

4. Strengthens the immune system

An article from the National Autonomous University of Mexico points out that sleep is essential for human beings. It maintains the homeostasis of the body and acts as a regulator of the immune system.

This study specifies that sleep can modify the function of this system by inducing changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and in the sympathetic nervous system.

Taking into account that during nighttime sleep, certain hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline decrease and favor activities of the immune system. When there’s no quality sleep, these processes are affected.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism conducted by the Endocrine Society revealed that a 30-minute nap can “reverse the hormonal impact of a bad night’s sleep.” It can also restore immune health biomarkers to normal levels.

5. Improves mood

A study that also sampled athletes found that a nap after lunch helped athletes improve their moods. In this study, the effects of naps of different lengths were reviewed. The one that had the greatest results in this regard, as well as in physical and cognitive performance, was the 90-minute nap.

Other research that sampled 40 people found that those who nap in the afternoon develop a greater tolerance for frustration and behave less impulsively.

6. Napping facilitates the learning process

It’s perhaps one of the most well-known scientific reasons for napping. Research from the Duke-NUS School of Medicine indicates that, in the long term, naps help to retain information and strengthen memory.

Therefore, it was found that taking a 30-minute nap after studying or learning something new makes it easier for people to retain this information.

7. Naping increases alertness

A study that took 13 karate athletes as a sample found that a 30-minute nap helped them recover from the cognitive and physical impairments caused by the lack of sleep that occurs due to their training days. Upon waking up, it was evidenced that the athletes increased their alertness and improved their cognitive abilities.

How to enjoy a restorative nap?

Scientific reasons for napping are important.
If you’re going to take a nap, do it the right way.

As we said before, for a nap to be effective, it must meet specific aspects. We’ll tell you about them below:

  • They must be short. Taking long naps can be detrimental by being able to trigger insomnia or other sleep disorders. Try to keep them between 20 and 40 minutes maximum.
  • Be careful with your schedule. Taking a nap after 3:00 pm has no positive effects and, on the contrary, could interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule.
  • The environment is important. Taking a nap will be much more effective if you take it in a quiet, dark, and quiet space. Temperature is also important.

Now you have scientific reasons for napping!

From now on, you won’t look at napping in the same way because you have scientific reasons to back it up. Your cardiovascular and arterial health will benefit, as well as your mental health and the way in which you learn. But be careful, it’s not about taking a nap every day from now on.

Remember that even if an occasional nap helps you regain lost sleep in one night, it will quickly alter the night cycle and not replace it. Many people believe that rest during the day makes up for rest at night, but this isn’t entirely the case. As you can see, the cited studies are very clear on this.

In fact, if you have problems sleeping at night continuously, you should consider discussing it with your doctor, as there may be underlying problems such as sleep apnea that you should treat.

  • Daaloul H, Souissi N, Davenne D. Effects of Napping on Alertness, Cognitive, and Physical Outcomes of Karate Athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Feb;51(2):338-345. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001786. PMID: 30239491.
  • Cousins, J. N., Wong, K. F., Raghunath, B. L., Look, C., & Chee, M. (2019). The long-term memory benefits of a daytime nap compared with cramming. Sleep, 42(1), zsy207. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy207
  • Jennifer R. Goldschmied, Philip Cheng, Kathryn Kemp, Lauren Caccamo, Julia Roberts, Patricia J. Deldin, Napping to modulate frustration and impulsivity: A pilot study, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 86, 2015. Pages 164-167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.06.013.
  • Boukhris, O., Trabelsi, K., Ammar, A., Abdessalem, R., Hsouna, H., Glenn, J. M., Bott, N., Driss, T., Souissi, N., Hammouda, O., Garbarino, S., Bragazzi, N. L., & Chtourou, H. (2020). A 90 min Daytime Nap Opportunity Is Better Than 40 min for Cognitive and Physical Performance. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(13), 4650. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17134650
  • Napping Reverses Health Effects of Poor Sleep. Endocrine Society. 2015.
  • Rico-Rosillo, María Guadalupe, & Vega-Robledo, Gloria Bertha. (2018). Sueño y sistema inmune. Revista alergia México, 65(2), 160-170. https://doi.org/10.29262/ram.v65i2.359
  • En resumen: su guía para un sueño saludable. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.
  • Martínez-Moya, L. Influencia de la siesta en los resultados y significación de la monitorización ambulatoria de presión arterial. Universidad de Zaragoza. Merino-Andreu M, Álvarez-Ruiz de Larrinaga A, Madrid-Pérez JA, Martínez-Martínez MA, PuertasCuesta FJ, Asencio-Guerra AJ, et al. Sueño saludable: evidencias y guías de actuación. Documento oficial de la Sociedad Española de Sueño. Rev Neurol 2016; 63 (Supl 2): S1-27.
  • Prevención y control de las enfermedades cardiovasculares. OMS.

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