To Nap or Not?
Think about the phrase "caught napping." It makes what is actually a short, restorative daytime doze sound lazy or even immoral. Once reserved for infants, college students and ER docs, naps are gaining respectability among ordinary adults -- and good thing, too. According to a 2001 study by the National Sleep Foundation, 40 percent of adults report feeling enough daytime sleepiness to interfere with their daily activities on at least a few days a month. About 22 percent say that daytime drowsiness disrupts them more than a few days a week. Talk about the walking wounded!How Naps Help
"A nap can help you increase your alertness," says Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York University in Manhattan, and coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Sleep (Crown Publishing, 2000). Naps come in three categories. There are preventive naps (in which you take an afternoon snooze on a day you know you'll be up late); habitual naps (the daily nap you schedule in -- great for new moms, shift workers, students, and anyone else who regularly loses sleep); and emergency naps (in which, for example, you pull off the highway for a doze rather than drive drowsy).
As great as a nap can be, we don't all need one every day. "We naturally have two dips in energy over a 24-hour period, one in the middle of the night, and another in the middle of the afternoon," says Dr. Walsleben. "But some of us, probably because we get enough good quality sleep at night, hardly notice the mid-afternoon slump." You probably know already if you're not one of the lucky ones -- but a good test if you're unsure is to think about how you feel during a boring business meeting at 4 p.m. Does it make you want to nod off? Then you need a nap.