Naps – good or bad?

Periods of daytime sleep are often known as naps. In some countries napping is culturally acceptable but it is often frowned upon in western industrialised society. If a nap is considered as a short period of sleep, perhaps snatched in a chair, for up to 20 minutes, the person is unlikely to go into deep sleep. This might be enough to ‘cure’ the feeling of sleepiness and enable the person to carry on.

Sleepy drivers should always be encouraged to stop and take a nap (drowsy driving is a significant cause of death).

Daytime sleep – going to bed and sleeping for a period long enough go into deep sleep (over 30 minutes) is usually discouraged, particularly in the treatment of insomnia, because daytime sleep is likely to delay night-time sleep.  Also, if someone wakes from deep sleep they are likely to feel groggy and disoriented, possibly feeling worse than before sleeping.

An afternoon sleep, or siesta, is normal in some cultures, particularly in hot places where this can be an effective way of avoiding the hottest period in the day.  Also for some who find they cannot get a full night’s sleep because of a medical condition, or a caring role, napping can be a good solution, lifestyle permitting. If it seems that someone needs a nap, to help them to get through their day, it makes sense to ‘schedule’ the nap. That way it is part of the person’s rhythm and routines, and you can make sure that the nap does not occur too close to the desired bedtime.

Content on this page contributed to by Andrew Green and Sophie Faulkner.
Last updated January 2017.