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Posted: September 30, 2008

Making a Nap Work for You; Health Benefits Aplenty

For many of us, taking an afternoon nap is a great way to refresh when we’re feeling sleepy, but the health benefits are actually many and may help offset a lack of sleep at night.


People who are sleep deprived because of inadequate or fitful sleep at night often feel groggy during the day and may fall asleep when they least want to. The risk is great, not only from creating an imbalance and higher likelihood of falling, but also dozing while driving or just plain falling asleep at your job.

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According to a report in the Harvard Men’s Health Watch newsletter, poor sleep at night may be caused by simply not devoting enough time to sleep or by medical problems that disrupt sleep, such as restless legs syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea. And in some cases, daytime sleepiness can result directly from medical problems such as depression or an under-active thyroid. And it can occur at any age.


As a result, it may pay to be proactive with napping. While dozing when you least want it can be dangerous, voluntary napping is not a sign of sleep deprivation, illness, or even aging. In fact, these voluntary naps can be helpful as well as enjoyable. Many studies of shift workers and other volunteers have reported that a nap as brief as 20 minutes can improve alertness, psychomotor performance, and mood, according o the Harvard newsletter.


Naps, however, aren’t trouble-free. One problem is sleep inertia, or grogginess and disorientation that may accompany awakening from deep sleep. The second problem is nighttime wakefulness, which separate studies have shown can increase the risk of falling in older women.


To get the most from a planned quick snooze, Harvard Men’s Health Watch suggests the following tips: 

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