Should You Nap? Good? Bad? How Long? How Often?
This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in September of 2020. For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gLtDn5FL2E&t=14s
Bob: Alright, the question of the day: Should you nap? Is it good? Bad? How long? How often?
Brad: Ah, good questions. There’s a lot of questions there, Bob.
Bob: By the way, I come from a long line of nappers. Yeah, my dad took a nap, my mom. My mom just said she always used to not take a nap during that period when the kids would lay down, she would get work done. After a while she was like “what was I doing?” They’d wake up and she’d be exhausted.
Brad: She could join in.
Bob: Actually Brad, there’s a fair amount of research on napping. But before I’m going to say that, there are a lot of notable people that were nappers: Winston Churchill, JFK, Ronald Reagan, he’d do it even during meetings, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison. When I went to Mayo Clinic for my studies, they made you read the biography of the two Mayo brothers that started it. Yeah, and William Mayo, I worked at his house for a while as a waiter.
Brad: Did you get to meet him?
Bob: No, he was dead a long time ago. But, he was a napper, and apparently even when he had famous people over he’d say, “I’m sorry, I have to leave,” and he’d go nap. I think the Queen of England was over one time and he got up and said “I gotta go and take my nap.”
Brad: I hope it didn’t upset her.
Bob: Yeah. Apparently not. So, anyway. There are a lot of studies on it and there’s actually three types of naps. Did you know that Brad? Planned napping, which means you’re preparing in case you know you’re going to lose sleep that night so you actually plan and take a nap ahead of time. Habitual napping, which is a daily nap. That’s me. And then there’s emergency napping. So, like if you’re driving along and all of a sudden you get real tired.
Brad: I’ve done that alright.
Bob: What are the benefits? Let’s go over that first. So, again there are a lot of studies. It restores alertness. No surprise there. I saw one that recently talks about how it improves your cognitive ability, your ability to remember. I know that I would always try to study right before I went to bed. And apparently that did help to absorb it. It’ll enhance your performance. It will reduce mistakes and accidents. They did a NASA study of astronauts and pilots, it improved their performance 34 percent.
Brad: Well, it really makes sense if you sit down and think about it. It’s like relaxing your body, you know, because you’re fatigued physically, you take a little nap, get some fresh blood in your system. Recharging your battery. And go back to work. So yeah, mentally it makes sense.
Bob: It decreased risk of drowsy driving, of course. I was reading that one book on sleep and they talked about even a slight decrease in alertness was equal to being drunk. It didn’t take much.
Brad: I’m never going to read that book. It exaggerates clearly, because I would be dead so many times by now driving.
Bob: It’ll scare the hell out of you. I’ve found it though, when I’m driving tired like,” oh boy, that was close.”
Brad: Yeah. When you cross that center line that’s when I stop to take a nap or get some Pepsi.
Bob: The other thing the studies have found, you’re less impulsive, and this is really true with me, you have a greater tolerance for frustration. I mean, I get in the worst moods when I’m tired. I’m like, yeah you need to go take a nap.
Brad: Well, kids are like that all the time. Liz are your kids cranky when their tired? Alex too, your husband?
Bob: I’m like a kid. When they get overtired, you get to that point of not coming back. Napping is really good for shift workers. It’s funny, Linda’s dad was a shift worker and so was her brother. I just don’t think shift work is good for you. I mean it really isn’t. It’s so bad.
Brad: Well, if you stay on the same shift, but rotating shifts are the worst. I think I’ve got a whole theory on that but I’m not going to get into it now.
Bob: Well, they showed that naps obviously helped this, but also they found out naps and caffeine are the best combination for that. No surprise. So, then there’s the psychological benefit. It’s like a pleasant mini vacation. And that’s how I look at it too. It’s like, ah I love taking a nap. You know?
Bob: So what are the negative parts of it? Well, there really aren’t that many to be honest with you. One, if you take a nap too close to bedtime it can affect your night time sleep. We see that a lot in the elderly when we work with them. Sometimes they can’t sleep at night and we go, “did you sleep during the day?” And they are like” No.” Then you come in their room and they’re zonked out. They don’t even know they slept during the day.
Brad: Well, if you sleep too long in naps or too much in the day, you get your nights and your days flipped around.
Bob: Right, right. So, the other one is sleep inertia. And this has happened to me, and we’re going to talk about when it’s too long. What’s the right time to take a nap, the amount of time? If you sleep too long, you get into that grogginess. Did you ever get to that? Where you took a nap, you woke up and were wiped. It takes you a half hour to wake up. You just can’t get going.
Brad: You have to jump in the shower just to get going.
Bob: Yeah, right. So you have to watch the amount of time to prevent sleep inertia. And number three, this probably isn’t a big one for me, it doesn’t bother me, is the stigma. Like, you’re considered lazy if you take a nap. Lack of ambition.
Bob: Absolutely. LOL. Because you’re not a napper are ya? Once in a while you take one, right?
Brad: Yeah. But no, historically you didn’t nap when you’re working. I mean, you couldn’t. I mean, you have work to get done. You can’t say, oh I’m going to take a nap.
Bob: Well, I wouldn’t take a nap here. Although, you know it’s funny when I worked construction, at lunch, I’d tip over a wheelbarrow, and lay in the wheelbarrow and take a nap for 15 minutes.
Brad: Yeah. Actually it’s a good idea. I know, when I’m working, I’m thinking about work. I’m not thinking about a nap. My mind is focused.
Bob: Let’s talk about the length of time, Brad. So, you have cycles in sleep. You have REM sleep, non-REM sleep. And, to go through a full cycle of sleep is an hour and a half. So, if you sleep a full hour and a half, you’re fine. But, if you sleep like 45 minutes, you’re not. If you sleep less than 30 minutes you’re fine, too because you never get into REM sleep. You never get into a cycle. So either sleep less than 30 minutes, or sleep an hour and a half. Don’t sleep like 45 minutes, don’t sleep for an hour because that’s when you get into that groggy state. Or, if you sleep like two hours you can be in that groggy state. Does that make sense?
Brad: Well, it does. Except for I have a feeling these numbers may vary from person to person.
Bob: You would be surprised how consistent it is among people, animals, and plants. It’s just amazing. That’s what I thought too. But they say no, it’s not as much variance as you’d think. And that whole thing about a lot of people get by on six hours of sleep, that too was a myth, it was like one out of a thousand people.
Brad: Well, I could believe that, for sure.
Bob: But there’s a lot of people that do it. And there’re running subpar.
Brad: It would be interesting to see what their lifespan is. I don’t know how you would. That’s be a tough one to study.
Bob: Well you’d have to do it after the fact, obviously. So, I guess my final saying is going to be yes you can go ahead and nap. They’re good for you, there’s all these benefits. Pick a time, at probably 30 minutes or less. That’s what I do, 20 minutes. Or, an hour and a half. Go the full hour and a half. Yeah that’s a long time.
Brad: Yeah, you think that then I would be staying up later, probably. I don’t know.
Bob: Right, you probably would be unless you’re at a deficit. Alright, happy naps out there.
Brad: Yes, nap well and be careful.
Bob: Be careful, haha.
Brad: Well, you got dreams, you know. They get in the way. I had a bad one last night. I drempt of a bear. Luckily I had my deer rifle. Well, I won. Everything was okay.
Bob: Is this like The Revenant?
Brad: Well, I don’t know about that, but I have had dreams where a bear has gotten me. I had to wake up screaming.
Bob: What is that? What does that mean?
Brad: The bear. A Black bear.
Bob: What does that symbolize? Who is the bear in your life?
Brad: I don’t know. Bob I’m not a psychologist.
Bob: We have to get into this.
Brad: I just know what I see.
Brad: Carry on.
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