It was the cartoon characters Charlie Brown and his canine sidekick, Snoopy, who once noted that you know you’ve grown up when a nap is no longer punishment but a reward. As a child, we do everything we can to get out of napping, but as an adult, we would do anything to take a nap! Monday, March 15, was National Napping Day, so it was the perfect excuse to get a little mid-day shuteye. You may be surprised to learn what a few minutes of relaxation will do for the rest of your day.
Can a nap a day keep the doctor away?
While National Napping Day is a fun commemoration on the calendar, there is something medicinal to the idea. In 1999, a Boston University professor, and his wife, created the holiday to bring awareness of the importance of getting enough sleep. Not coincidentally, World Napping Day occurs on the Monday after Daylight Saving Time when we lose an hour of sleep due to moving our clocks forward each Spring. The idea is not to let yourself go into a deep sleep, but rather, take a quick 10–15-minute nap, also known as a ‘power nap.’ Typically, an adult will cycle through four different sleep stages at night, with the N3 stage being the deepest stage of sleep, following by REM Sleep, which is the stage associated with dreaming. So, the idea of a power nap is to get relaxed enough for just a few minutes, and if you can accomplish that, you could experience many health benefits, such as:
- Boost your alertness
- Reduce fatigue
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve your mood and reduce stress
- Improve productivity
- Improve memory
With that said, keep in mind that there could be some drawbacks to napping if you are one who can’t just take a quick nap but find yourself sleeping for an hour or more. In that case, napping could have the opposite effect, such as disorientation or grogginess when you wake up, and even worse, it could impact your regular sleep habits. Napping is an individual decision that may work well for some and not others, but it is something we should all try now and then to determine if a good power nap is a boost we need to get through the day.
A lack of sleep can impact your mental health
You may not realize this, but a lack of sleep can negatively impact your psychological state and mental health. Doctors have noted that a lot of people with mental health issues are also more likely to have insomnia or some other sleep disorder. Again, our bodies go through specific sleep patterns or stages when we sleep. At the height of our deepest sleep, our body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heartbeat and breathing slows. It is also at this stage that sleep produces psychological changes that help our immune system. When that sleep is continually interrupted, it can worsen any underlying psychological problems we may be experiencing, such as depression or anxiety. West Jefferson Medical Center Sleep Disorder Center sees many disorders that impact sleep, such as:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea or repetitive episodes of paused breathing due to reduction of blood oxygen
- Periodic Leg Movement or extreme, prolonged body movements, typically in the legs
- Narcolepsy, which is a chronic sleep disorder that creates overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep
- Parasomnias or abnormal behaviors while asleep, such as sleepwalking or night terrors
If you are experiencing sleep problems that don’t seem to ease, don’t ignore this, as there could be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. A good idea is to keep a sleep diary, track your sleep and how you feel the next day, and convey this information to your doctor as accomplishing a good night’s sleep is key to your physical and mental health.
About Dr. William Borron:
Dr. William Borron specializes in pulmonology at West Jefferson Medical Center. After earning his medical degree from LSU in Baton Rouge, LA, he completed his residency at LSU in New Orleans, LA, followed by his fellowships in pulmonology at LSU.