The benefits of napping are clear. As we age, the quality of our sleep decreases. While it was once thought that older people didn’t need as much sleep as young adults, teenagers, or children, recent research has proved this to be untrue. Everyone should get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
However, since quality of sleep decreases with our increase in age, the question of napping remains. Does it affect our nighttime sleep quality, or does a daytime nap count toward the recommended hours of sleep? A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that not only does napping increase older individuals’ sleep time, but napping has measurable cognitive benefits, too.
Some benefits of a short afternoon nap:
Napping can boost alertness and improve motor performance, which is why you feel energized after taking one. The length of your nap determines the benefits. A 20-minute snooze—called a stage two nap—is ideal to enhance motor skills and attention, while an hour to 90 minutes of napping brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which helps make new connections in the brain and can aid in solving creative problems.
Regular, short naps can help lower tension, which decreases your risk of heart disease. Get the most health benefits out of your nap by doing it right. Stick to a regular napping schedule during optimal hours, which are between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. This timeframe is optimal, since that’s usually after lunchtime, when your blood sugar and energy starts to dip. Keep shut-eye short; and nap in a dark room so that you’ll fall asleep faster.
Older adults (between ages 50 and 83) who napped between 20 minutes and two hours saw an improved quality in daytime cognitive abilities and nighttime sleep. That is one more reason to relax and take a nap!