The Mental Health Benefits of Napping

Naps: many young children resist them (loudly!), and that’s because they don’t know what they are missing until much later in life. Now that I’m grown, I wish someone would insist I lie down and rest for an hour or two each afternoon, don’t you? Well, when it’s possible, I recommend you do just that. While it’s rarely feasible to nap every day, you certainly can reap the benefits of a short siesta on weekends, holidays, and days off. And I have good news for you! Not only does napping feel great, but it also offers several nice benefits for your mental and physical health. This article will check out how napping can help you relax and recharge for an improved sense of well-being and better brain function. I’ll also give you a few smart tips on making the most of your naps and preventing them from triggering insomnia afterward. Snuggle up—it’s time to get comfy!

Why is Napping Good for You?

Okay, first things first: sure, catching up on sleep usually feels amazing, but are naps good for you? It turns out that your parent and preschool teacher was onto something when they tucked you in every afternoon—napping is awesome for your mental and physical health. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, taking some time to rest is one of the easiest ways to give your brain a short break. The next time you’re craving a nice afternoon nap, you can rest assured (no pun intended!) that you’re actually doing something very positive for yourself.

Person laying on the couch, napping, with a book over their face
Catching up on sleep usually feels amazing (Image Source: Shutterstock)

So what happens when you take a nap? If you’ve ever laid down for a brief snooze because you were underslept and overtired, you likely know just how beneficial it can be. When you time your nap right, you can feel happier, reenergized, and much better prepared for the rest of your day. A simple nap can increase your alertness and sense of creativity, help improve your cognitive function and memory, and reduce your stress and anxiety levels. You’ll also enjoy lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits of getting adequate rest cannot be overstated, and napping, when done properly, can be an important part of your sleep hygiene.

How Long Should a Nap Be?

Taking a brief midday rest is an excellent idea, but only if you do it correctly. Sleep experts recommend following a few simple guidelines for healthy napping. They’re pretty straightforward: don’t overdo your naps, and don’t lie down to nap too late in the day.

How long should your naps be? – Sara C. Mednick ︱ TED-Ed

How Long Should My Nap Be?

You have probably had the unpleasant experience of taking a marathon nap in the late afternoon, only to find it impossible to fall asleep later that night. If you take an afternoon nap and wake up groggy or cannot go to sleep at night, you may want to adjust your napping schedule. The best nap length will vary from person to person, but the ideal window is usually somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes. You may need to experiment with different nap lengths before you find your ideal resting time. If you feel miserable and cranky after waking from your nap and can’t shake it off in a few minutes, try decreasing your sleep by 15 minutes. Some people may do best with an under-30-minute nap.

What Time Should I Nap?

For the most part, you’ll want to avoid napping too late in the afternoon, unless you’re absolutely desperate for rest and have no other time. Try to lie down for some shut-eye before 3 PM (or by 4 PM at the latest), or you may set yourself up for insomnia later that night. If you have plans for later in the evening, set an alarm to give yourself plenty of time to wake up beforehand. Afternoon naps can be wonderfully rejuvenating, but it’s likely you’ll feel sleepy and even a little irritable when you first open your eyes. Don’t worry—if you haven’t overslept, the feelings should pass quickly.

Make Time for a Power Nap!

We live in a society where people wear their exhaustion and stress like badges of honor. It seems like everyone wants to outdo one another when it comes to working too many hours, having too many commitments, and not getting enough sleep. When you spend enough time with people who humblebrag about pulling all-nighters, you may begin to internalize the idea that getting enough sleep is for lazy or unambitious people. This mentality may be commonplace these days, but it’s toxic! No one wins a prize for sleep deprivation, and nothing is admirable about ruining your physical and mental health in the name of being the busiest person you know.

Resting with eyes closed lying in comfortable bed
Give yourself permission to take a little break when you can (Image Source: Shutterstock)
Resting With Eyes Closed Lying In Comfortable Bed
Give yourself permission to take a little break when you can. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

You have probably needed to stay awake when tired to finish a work project or tend to a sick loved one. It’s a simple fact that sometimes you must temporarily put aside basic needs because someone or something requires immediate attention. And that’s why it’s so important to catch up on sleep when we can. Getting enough rest is an essential part of daily self-care. So please don’t ever talk yourself out of a nap because you think it’s lazy or self-indulgent. You’re not ignoring your responsibilities or procrastinating by pausing for a brief period of rest. In reality, it’s an easy way to relax and reenergize to be your best self for the rest of your day. Give yourself permission to take a little break when you can.

What are you waiting for? Put your phone on silent mode, pull down your shades, and hit the pillow for at least half an hour of rest. You’ll be so glad you did!